The U18 International season kicks off on Saturday when Ireland U18 Clubs head to Italy to face Italy Academy U18s.
Kicking off at 4pm in Italy, 3pm GMT, the game sees 23 players turn out for Ireland with the aim of making the squad for the U18 Six Nations Festival in Spring 2019.
Three members of the Irish Exiles programme, IQ Rugby, start the game on Saturday, with another on the bench, as Ireland, like England, Scotland, and Wales, make increasingly astute use of their scouting networks.
Among the most exciting is Sedbergh fly half Michael Cooke, who partnership with England U18 10/12 Tom Curtis has been a delight this season.
Cooke starts at outside half for Ireland on Saturday with Connacht’s Aoda Hession inside him and Karl Martin of Leinster on his outside. Shane Jennings, not that one, of Connacht is at outside centre.
Another Exile, SGS Filton College’s Zach Kavanagh is on the left wing and he is joined in the back three by the Leinster duo of Josh O’Connor on the other wing and Jamie Osbourne at full back.
Kavanagh’s fellow AASE League player Monty Royston of Hartpury College starts at loosehead for Ireland U18 Clubs, he is alongside the all-Connacht pair of Eoin de Buitlear at hooker and Cian Scanlon at tighthead.
Connacht’s Darragh Murray captains the side from the second row alongside Munster’s Jay Traynor, and there are two more Connacht men in the back row, Donnacha Byrne at 8 and Oisin McCormack at openside, with Leinster’s Mark Boyle at blindside.
The bench sees the final Exile in the 23, Trent College’s Liam Bishop, covering loosehead, with Dylan Murphy and Darragh McCarthy, both of Munster, the other two front row replacements.
Connacht’s Cathal Fleming and Hubert Costello cover the rest of the pack, with Munster’s Ethan Coughlan covering scrum half and another Connacht pair of Cathal Forde and Conor O’Shaughnessy covering the rest of the backline.
Ireland U18 Clubs v Italy Academy U18 – Saturday, 3pm GMT, La Ghirada Centro Sportivo, Treviso
15 Jamie Osborne (Naas RFC/Leinster)
14 Josh O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers RFC/Leinster)
13 Shane Jennings (Ballinasloe RFC/Connacht)
12 Karl Martin (Boyne RFC/Leinster)
11 Zach Kavanagh (SGS Filton College/IQ Rugby)
10 Michael Cooke (Newcastle Falcons RFC/Sedbergh School/IQ Rugby)
9 Aodha Hession (Creggs RFC/Connacht)
1 Monty Royston (Hartpury College/IQ Rugby)
2 Eoin de Buitléar (An Ghaeltacht/Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
3 Cian Scanlon (An Ghaeltacht/Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
4 Darragh Murray (Buccaneers RFC/Connacht, captain)
5 Jay Traynor (Waterpark RFC/Munster)
6 Mark Boyle (Gorey RFC/Leinster)
7 Oisin McCormack (Ballinasloe RFC/Connacht)
8 Donnacha Byrne (Sligo RFC/Connacht)
Replacements: 16 Dylan Murphy (Nenagh Ormond RFC/Munster), 17 Liam Bishop (Yorkshire Carnegie RFC//Trent College/IQ Rugby), 18 Darragh McCarthy (Cobh Pirates RFC/Munster), 19 Cathal Fleming (Monivea RFC/Connacht), 20 Hubert Costello (Corinthians RFC/Connacht), 21 Ethan Coughlan (Ennis RFC/Munster), 22 Cathal Forde (Corinthians RFC/Connacht), 23 Conor O’Shaughnessy (Galwegians RFC/Connacht).