patreece bell
Patreece Bell has already been on a big rugby journey to get this far - and now he can't wait to go the extra mile after being handed a start against Wales.

After just managing to edge past Italy 23-22 last time out at Virgin Media Park in Cork a fortnight ago, the Irish will be back at the same venue on Friday evening looking to stay undefeated.

The Italy game came after a win away to reigning world champions France in round one and the round two scare has certainly sharpened the minds with Wales now coming to town.And for Bell, who came off the bench versus the Italians, it will be a proud night when he runs out in the number three jersey.

“My grandma and grandad are both from County Down, I have always known about the Irish connections, so to now be playing for the country is very special,” the 19-year-old Sale Sharks man said.

“I was born in London, but I grew up on the Isle of Man and that is where I started my rugby. It was really good because there was a Sale development programme in the Isle of Man and I managed to get trials there and then began to think about moving to England because there wasn’t loads of rugby where I was.

“When I was around 15 or 16 - and was starting to link up with the Sale Sharks Academy - I did move over to England and was a boarding pupil at Kirkham Grammar School." Since then Bell has been linked in with Sale Sharks and played for England at U18 level a few years ago, but his colours are now well and truly nailed to the Irish mast.

"When I was on loan at Sedgely Tigers, Ireland started to watch a few of my games and they must have liked what they saw because the coaches then invited me over to a training camp with the U20s and things have just gone from there,” he continued.

“I grew up watching Ireland play rugby with my grandad when I was a kid, so playing for Ireland has always been something that has been on my mind and now that I am doing it I am just trying to make the most of the opportunity.

"It's been class so far. I’ve been welcomed into the group so well and I’ve enjoyed coming over and experiencing a different type of environment.

"We had two former U20 captains [Gus McCarthy from 2023, and Reuben Crothers from the previous year] come into camp to share their experiences with us and I thought that was a nice touch.

“It gave us even more motivation and showed the current squad just what playing for the Irish U20s means.”

And rubbing shoulders with the Ireland squad that is currently taking part in the Guinness Men’s Six Nations a few days ago has also helped Bell prepare for this match versus the Welsh, who have won one and lost one to date in 2024.

“We trained with the Irish senior squad last week in Dublin and one of the big messages coming out of that was how to stay calm in everything we do,” he revealed. “We have to stick to our process and always be calm out there on the field because games can change quickly and it is all about how you deal with that. The messages coming out of the senior Ireland squad really stuck with me and I’ll try and take those learnings forward.

“It should be a good challenge for us against Wales and I am excited for that. They pride themselves on having a strong pack and so do we so it should be interesting in the scrums and such like and we’ll have to be focused for the whole match.

“I am buzzing to be starting in an Ireland jersey, grateful for the chance and focused.”

Kick-off for this game is 7.15pm on Friday and it will be shown live on BBC iPlayer, RTÉ 2 and S4C.

Ireland U20: 15. Ben O’Connor, 14. Finn Treacy, 13. Wilhelm de Klerk, 12. Hugh Gavin, 11. Hugo McLaughlin, 10. Jack Murphy, 9. Oliver Coffey, 1. Ben Howard, 2. Henry Walker, 3. Patreece Bell, 4. Joe Hopes, 5. Evan O’Connell, 6. Sean Edogbo, 7. Bryn Ward, 8. Luke Murphy Replacements: 16. Danny Sheahan, 17. Alex Usanov, 18. Jacob Boyd, 19. Billy Corrigan, 20. Tom Brigg, 21. Tadhg Brophy, 22. Sean Naughton, 23. Davy Colbert