BRYAN REDPATH has made 12 personnel changes and two positional alterations to the Scotland Under-20 side which lost 13-29 to Argentina on Sunday, ahead of their final pool match at the World Rugby U20 Championship in the south of France against England this evening [Thursday].
“There were always going to be changes, bringing in some guys who haven’t played,” explained the head coach. ‘The front-row guys who have played in the first two get a rest and Finn Hobbis, who hasn’t been involved yet, comes on to the bench. Young Charlie Jupp gets a chance to call the line-outs and Ewan Johnson comes back into second row, too.
Ayr hooker Robbie Smith, who captained Scotland Under-20s during the Six Nations, and registered a monumental performance against England, missed the last three months of the season with an ankle injury. He was deployed off the bench during the team’s first two matches of this tournament but now returns to the starting fifteen as skipper ahead of Finlay Scott of Jed-Forest.
“Guy Graham was selected to play in the previous match but had a dead leg from training. James Miller gets a chance at number eight and Marshall Sykes at six was excellent [in the second-row] in the last game – he made 18 tackles which is outstanding for a young lad coming in,” added Redpath.
In the backline, there is one positional change with Stirling County starlet Logan Trotter switching from wing to full-back, and five new faces from the side which started against Argentina.
Charlie Gowling, who was a late call-up to the squad for the injured Kaleem Barreto, gets his first start in the tournament at scrum-half, replacing Charlie Chapman.
“They are very similar, very good service,” said Redpath. “His kicking is maybe not quite as polished as Charlie Chapman but he’s a good competitor. If we get some quick ball then he can create opportunities. Both Charlies are good at the ruck so we don’t want to get into an arm wrestle.”
Ross Thompson returns at fly-half in place of Callum McLelland, who scored an excelleyt try against Argentina but had a patchy day with the boot.
Stafford McDowall, who is the squad captain during this campaign, drops to the bench and Cameron Hutchison, his centre partner for the first two matches, is out of the match-days squad altogether, with Fraser Strachan of Northampton Saints and Patrick Anderson of Melrose taking over the 12 and 13 jerseys respectively.
Kyle Rowe returns on the right wing after missing the Argentina match, and his Glasgow Hawks team-mate Sam Yawayawa keeps his place on the left touch-line as the only player wearing the same jersey as four days ago.
“On the whole I don’t see a huge difference in the personnel we have in the squad. I think we’re all very similar. This game is a great opportunity for the lads to push for this fourth match,” said Redpath.
It has been a tough campaign for this relatively young and inexperienced Scotland squad, but Redpath says that he has been generally encouraged by the team’s performances, despite losing their two games so far against Italy last Wednesday and Argentina on Sunday.
“The Italy game was probably the harder one to take. That was a massive opportunity for us. We were 23-10 up and lost a bit of composure [to go down 26-27],” he reflected. “Then against Argentina they did well to get back to 15-13 and then disappointingly conceded a couple of tries late on.
“I look at all the stats of where we are and we’re actually performing at a higher level than two defeats from two would suggest, we’re just not taking some of the opportunities.
“We are top five in the tournament on most things, except for scoring tries. We just need a little bit of confidence about when and how to use the opportunities we’ve been creating.
“We’re ranked highest in the whole tournament in terms of possession, also on turnovers conceded; carries we’re top four, same in line-breaks and tackle-breaks. But we’re not converting and that’s the hardest part for me. We’re on the right track we just need to learn to execute under a little more pressure than they’ve been under before. We are competitive.”Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 3)
Redpath refused to use the team’s lack of bulk as an excuse for their failure to convert promising opportunities into decisive points on the board.
“We are always in that position when it comes to bulk. Some aspects of our set-piece have been good in the first two games, we got 100 per cent lineouts against Argentina, up from 40-50 per cent against Italy. All the stats show we are competing on many fronts,” he reasoned.
Scotland Under-20s, of course, defeated their English counterparts the last time the two sides met during the Six Nations. Redpath expects his team to face a far sterner test this time round against a far more focussed and better prepared opposition than they faced that day back in February, but he believes his players can still draw confidence from that result.
“If you look at the Six Nations game the boys were good, they played the conditions well and any mistakes England made were capitalised on,” he said. “That’s in the back of the mind. This tournament is different with the way it’s refereed. There have been four players sent home already for high tackles so we have to keep our cool. We as a nation can’t afford to go 14 men or get anyone sent home. We have to play with emotion as well. We have to get right up there for the game. England are probably in the top two-three favourites to win the competition.”
England have won their two games played so far, 39-18 against Argentina and 43-5 against Italy.
Scotland Under-20s team to play England a Stade De La Mediterranee in Beziers, kick-off 8pm GMT (9pm local time) –
15. Logan Trotter (Stirling County)
14. Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Hawks)
13. Patrick Anderson (Melrose)
12. Fraser Strachan (Northampton Saints)
11. Sam Yawayawa (Glasgow Hawks)
10. Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks)
9. Charlie Gowling (Stade Francais)
1. Ross Dunbar (Boroughmuir)
2. Robbie Smith (Ayr)CAPTAIN
3. Finlay Richardson (Edinburgh Accies)
4. Ewan Johnson (Racing Metro 92)
5. Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s)
6. Marshall Sykes (St Jospeh’s College)
7. Guy Graham (Newcastle Falcons)
8. James Miller (Watsonians)
16. Finlay Scott (Jed Forest)
17. Finn Hobbis (Watsonians)
18. Murphy Walker (Strathallan School)
19. Martin Hughes (Heriot’s)
20. Devante Onojaife (Northampton Saints)
21. Charlie Chapman (Gloucester)
22. Callum McLelland (Edinburgh)
23. Stafford McDowall (Ayr)