Scotland Under-20 warriors gear up for one last battle


Scotland skipper Callum Hunter-Hill will look to lead from the front again. Image: INPHO/Craig Watson

THEY have already achieved something exceptional in this Junior World Cup, and now Scotland Under-20 have the opportunity to finish the campaign on a huge high if they can secure a positive result against Australia in tomorrow [Sunday] morning’s fifth-sixth place play-off.

Regardless of whether they win or lose, this will still be the nation’s best ever tournament – with their previous high-water mark being an eighth place finish. The odds are against John Dalziel’s side, with Australia having impressed in their four games so far.

The Wallabies were unlucky to miss out on a top seed qualification from their pool after an agonising 19-20 defeat to tournament favourites England, and then convincingly despatched Italy 42-19 in their play-off semi-final match [Scotland had to battle hard for a 17-16 victory over the Azzurri in the pool stage].

However, the young Scots will take encouragement for having cause an upset against Australia in the opening game of last year’s Junior World Cup, when a sensational Darcy Graham score set them on course for glory. The Scots have also grown in confidence as this tournament has progressed with their 29-25 semi-final victory over Wales in the semi-final arguably the best ever performance by a Scottish side at this level.

Dalziel has picked the same starting fifteen for the third outing on the bounce, meaning that these players have now played a hat-trick of huge games inside ten days. Fourteen of the players have started four games in fourteen days, with the only change being number eight Tom Dodd coming in for the injured Bruce Flockhart after the Ireland success. Flockhart is fit again for this game and is named on the bench ahead of Archie Erskine, which is the only change to the bench.

Eleven of these players will be starting their fifth game in 18 days. It is a huge test of physical and mental endurance.

Graham scored a brace of tries against Wales and is one of a handful of exciting broken-field runners – alongside fellow winger Robbie Nairn, full-back Blair Kinghorn and outside centre Ross McCann – who will cause Australia serious problems given half a chance. Stafford McDowall provides the iron in midfield, while half-backs Conor Eastgate and Andrew Simmers will look to keep the Wallabies guessing.

The pack was key to Scotland’s success against Wales and another huge shift will be required this weekend. There is no doubt that they have the ability and the courage to go toe-to-toe against their opponents, but there is bound to be a concern that fatigue will become a decisive factor.

“We’re immensely proud of what this group has achieved so far, but there’s still a job to be done against Australia.  The match is going to be a huge test of our character as Australia are an excellent side, but we feel we’re up to the challenge both mentally and physical,” said Dalziel.

“This group has shown what a quality side they are and the players still have a lot more to give as individuals and as a collective. We’re delighted to have made history, but we’re not looking to stop there. The potential for further success in this tournament and beyond is huge.”

Scotland Under-20 team to play Australia @ Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship on Sunday 18th June (kick-off 2.30pm local/11.30am 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.  Daniel Winning (Boroughmuir)
19. Hamish Bain (Currie)
20. Bruce Flockhart (Glasgow Hawks)
21. Charlie Shiel (Currie)
22. Josh Henderson (Glasgow Hawks)
23. Lewis Berg (Gala)

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.