Ireland U-20 out-half Sam Prendergast believes his side are capable of getting off to a winning start in tomorrow’s Six Nations opener against Wales but expects the Colwyn Bay clash to be a tough challenge.
rendergast has been named in the XV and is one of six starters who featured at U-20 level last year. The 19-year-old returns having kicked a stunning long-range penalty at the death to secure a Summer Series victory against England last July and is hoping to create more memories in green over the coming weeks.
“It was good to see what the intensity is like at this level, but from talking to the coaches, it looks like the Six Nations will be a step up again,” said Prendergast ahead of Ireland’s opener against Wales tomorrow (7.0).
“We were probably a bit off where we needed to be (last summer). I think we need to be a bit more organised and bring a greater intensity this year.
“I think it was really beneficial (playing last summer), especially having played against the likes of France and South Africa, who are very power-based teams. Also, playing away in uncomfortable settings. That puts you in a good place this week, going away from home to a weird pitch and a weird setting.”
While the Leinster academy player has experience at U-20 and U-19 level, he’s also able to go to his older brother Cian for advice, with the Connacht flanker (22) earning his first senior cap last November against Fiji.
“He has given me a few little hints about it,” said Prendergast of his brother, both siblings lining out for Newbridge College at schools level.
“He just said it’s a big step up from what you are used to. You’re not really prepared for the intensity, but it’s really enjoyable. He said it was one of the most exciting times he has had as a player, so there’s a lot to look forward to.
“I would like to think I’m naturally vocal. It’s probably easier when you’re playing with lads your own age in this environment.”
Richie Murphy’s side have been busy preparing this week and also banked a trio of friendlies over the Christmas period. Although Prendergast admits it took a while for the new group to click, he believes they are well-placed to start strong in north Wales.
“At the start, we had only been in a couple of camps together and didn’t really know each other too well,” added Prendergast, who plays his club rugby with Lansdowne and studies marketing at TUD.
“We were playing off the cuff a little bit against Italy, but as the games have gone on, we have been able to build. Munster was a bit better and Leinster better again. I think we are quite close to where we want to be.”
While Prendergast is one of the more experienced players in the group, only three of the current 32-man squad picked up a Six Nations medal a little under 12 months ago. The Kildare man has the same goal in his sights but insists his side are not looking past Wales.
“I’d be asking questions to guys like Diarmuid Mangan, Conor O’Tighearnaigh, and James McNabney, because they all have experience of the Six Nations, and what the crowds and intensity are like.
“A lot of the lads have won the Senior Cup with Blackrock too, so they are fairly well settled with that atmosphere. It would be class (to win the Six Nations), but at the moment, we are just focusing on the Wales game.
“We know that not a lot of Irish U-20s teams have won away there, so we have set ourselves that big challenge. It’s exciting for us to get going and make our own mark as a team.”