CARRICK McDonough is hoping his athletics background can help him climb up the professional rugby ladder.

Life could have been very different for the Wales U20s and Dragons academy wing, who was a Welsh champion over 100 metres when he was 15.

But the teenager from Oakdale eventually decided to pursue a career in professional rugby, and he believes his speed will help him reach the top.

“My speed is what will get me places,” said the 18-year-old.

“If I get ball in hand, hopefully I can show people what I can do. When I was growing up my dad was a rugby player and my mam was an athlete.

“I stopped rugby for a while to concentrate on athletics. I won a couple of Welsh championships but there came a point where I had to choose rugby or athletics.

“At under-15s I was a Welsh champion at 60 metres, 100 metres, and 200 metres. Back then I ran the 60 metres in 7.4 seconds which was when I was 14.

“My fastest 100 metres time was 11.1, and my fastest 200 metres was 23.1, but I think I’d easily beat those times now if I did them again.”

Due to Covid, McDonough hasn’t played much rugby over the past 18 months but has been assigned to Ebbw Vale for next season in a bid to break into the senior Dragons squad.

But for the time being he is concentrating on helping Wales U20s build on their opening Six Nations victory over Italy, with an important clash against Ireland tonight.

He said: “The boys at the Dragons have been assigned their Welsh Premiership clubs and I believe I’ll be at Ebbw Vale next season.

“Hopefully, I can get some good form going from this Six Nations and take it into next season with Ebbw Vale.

“If I get a chance to play some games, hopefully I can push myself into the Dragons senior squad.

“We had a good win against Italy last week and I believe if we play at our best, we can beat Ireland.”

Wales boss Ioan Cunningham has named an unchanged starting line-up for tonight’s clash at Cardiff Arms Park (kick-off 8pm).

There are two changes on the bench with Exeter Chiefs’ Christ Tshiunza and Ospreys’ Rhys Thomas replacing Tristan Davies and Evan Lloyd respectively.

The selection is a vote of confidence for the side who had to battle some stern opposition in Italy in their opening round encounter before victory was finally secured.

“It’s always good to start with a win to build from, and credit to the group, they stepped up when they needed to,” said Cunningham.

“Early on, Italy had a lot of possession and territory, they were camped close to our try line and the boys dug in and we came out without conceding, so we could see the boys growing into the game which was great for us.

“We’re hoping to build from the cohesion created against Italy and as a group we haven’t played many games, so it’s a good opportunity for those guys who deserve to back it up with a second opportunity.”

Wales U20s team to play Ireland U20s: J Beetham; D John, I Evans, J Hawkins, C McDonough; S Costelow, H Williams; G Phillips, E Daniel, N Evans, J Peard, D Jenkins, A Mann (capt), H Deaves, C Tuipulotu. Reps: O Burrows, T Bevacqua, L Jones, J Fender, C Tshiunza, E Lloyd, W Reed, T Florence, M Richards, E James, R Thomas.