Only one change to Scotland Under-20 for Italy clash

Tom Dodd celebrates scoring for Scotland under-20 against Italy during this year's Six Nations Championship. Image: INPHO/Craig Watson

JOHN DALZIEL has made only one enforced change to he Scotland under-20 starting fifteen which secured a memorable victory over Ireland on Sunday, when selecting his side to take on Italy in the final round of pool matches at the Junior World Cup in Georgia tomorrow morning [Thursday @ 10am].

Worcester Warriors prospect Tom Dodd  has come into the back-row in place of the injured Bruce Flockhart, with Newcastle Falcons academy player Archie Erskine poised to make his international debut at this level off the bench.

Dodd played the final 58 minutes of the Ireland game as a replacement after Flockhart injured his knee, so in reality Dalziel has challenged the Scottish back-row to carry on from where they left off four days ago.

Flockhart’s injury has been scanned and there is no long-term damage. He is making good progress, so while this game has come too early for him, Dalziel is confident that the Glasgow Hawks man will be back in action by the time next round of matches come along next Tuesday.

Mathematically, the Scots can still make it into the top four cup competition for the first time ever, but that is a long-odds bet. Their best chance of achieving this unlikely goal is if they defeat Ireland with a bonus point, while Australia fail to get so much as a bonus point against England and winless Georgia defeat France.

“Tomorrow’s game is a huge opportunity for this group to win two pool stage games for the second year in a row and guarantee a top eight finish in the competition,” said Dalziel. “That was our target coming into this competition and that is our focus. Whatever happens in other games is out of our control so we are not worrying about that.|

“The group gave everything in the game against Ireland, and that was reflected in a performance full of pride in the jersey. It was a display of true grit, with the players battling in difficult conditions to earn the victory.

Italy made 11 changes to the team which defeated Ireland in their opening match of this tournament for their clash against New Zealand, and have now recalled all but two of those players to play against Scotland, suggesting that they have targeted this game and kept as many key men as possible fresh for the challenge.

Scotland, in contrast, have gone for consistency in selection, with 11 of their players starting their third match in eight days. Their ability to cope with such a gruelling schedule is going to be key.

“We’re pretty scientific about it. All the players are being constantly monitored and tested so we know where we are with each one of them, and the feedback we’ve had is that they are in pretty good shape and ready to go – that’s why we’ve given them another run out. There is a real buzz in the squad after the Ireland game and the boys are just really looking forward to getting back out there so that they can put in another positive performance,” explained Dalziel.

“Italy are hugely physical and will also be hunting their second victory in the competition, so it’s going to be a highly competitive contest. We need to maintain our standards and continue to build on last weekend’s victory if we’re to come out on top.”

“We came out on top when we played them in the Six Nations but looking at the team lists, they have a very different squad now, so we are not reading too much into it. They are one of the form teams in the tournament, having beaten Ireland in their first game and then making a lot of changes but still managing to put in a good performance against New Zealand in their next match – and I don’t think the final score in that game [68-26 defeat] did them justice. So, we’re not underestimating the challenge but we don’t feel we have anything to fear.”

Scotland Under-20 team to play Ireland Under-20 @ AIA Arena in Kutaisi, Georgia in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship on Thursday 8th June (kick-off 1pm local/10am BST) –

15. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby)

14. Robbie Nairn (Ayr)
13. Ross McCann (Melrose)
12. Stafford McDowall (Ayr)
11. Darcy Graham (Hawick/Edinburgh Rugby)

10. Connor Eastgate (Wasps)
9. Andrew Simmers (Heriot’s)

1. George Thornton (Bishop Burton College)
2. Fraser Renwick (Hawick)
3. Adam Nicol  (Stirling County)
4. Alex Craig (Gloucester)
5. Callum Hunter-Hill (Stirling County/Edinburgh) CAPTAIN
6. Luke Crosbie (Currie)
7. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks)
8. Tom Dodd (Worcester)

Replacements –

16. Robbie Smith (Ayr)
17. Fergus Bradbury (Stirling County)
18.  Ross Dunbar (Boroughmuir)
19. Hamish Bain (Currie)
20. Archie Erskine (Newcastle Falcons)
21. Charlie Shiel (Currie)
22. Josh Henderson (Glasgow Hawks)
23. Patrick Anderson (Melrose)

About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.