SEAN Lineen has told his Scotland Under-20s squad that they can and must raise their game in the penultimate two rounds of their Six Nations Championship in Wales. The young Scots have lost all three of their matches so far, but the head coach believes that the higher standard they achieved in round two against England is a level they are capable of reaching again.
“It doesn’t take anything to show effort,” Lineen said after naming his squad for tomorrow night’s match against France. “That was one thing that was a bit disappointing in the last game against Italy – our players didn’t try for the whole game and gave up a little bit easily. It was very tough and things didn’t go our way. It was unacceptable and it’s not the standards that we want.
“We know from the England game that this squad can perform and compete better than that. When they’re in a Scottish jersey we want to see them play with pride and passion for the whole 80 minutes.”
Lineen has again rotated his squad, beginning in the front row, where loosehead prop Tom Banatalava comes in for his first start and tighthead Corey Bowker makes his debut. Openside Rhys Tait and scrum-half Euan Cunningham are another two who start a match at this level for the first time. Alex Samuel again captains the side from the second row, and is one of only four players to keep their place from the Italy game, the other three being centre Thomas Glendinning, winger Finlay Callaghan and blindside Archie Smeaton.
“We wanted to be as fair as we could, to give players the opportunity,” the coach continued, explaining his selection policy for the tournament. “They’ve trained pretty well too. The plan was always to help develop these players.
“With 17 guys that are back next year, we want to make sure that we give them a taste of it. A lot of the players have learned an awful lot over these last couple of weeks, as we all have.
“It’s been really hard, especially with Covid, but it’s the same for the other five teams. When you look at this group, it’s not a weak group, but look at the players who are missing. Jamie Dobie, Matt Currie, Harry Paterson, Gregor Brown, Dan Gamble, Jamie Campbell – and Harri Morris who is suspended – it’s a strong group.
“We just haven’t been able to put the strongest team out. This is a very young group, and it’s tough for them, but we want them to get it right, put a smile back on their faces, and put in a performance to be proud of.”
Scotland U 20 (v France U20s at Cardiff Arms Park, Wednesday, 5pm): O Melville (Boroughmuir Bears/Glasgow Warriors); R McKnight (Stirling County), T Glendinning (Glasgow Hawks), M Gray (Boroughmuir Bears/Glasgow Warriors), F Callaghan (Ayrshire Bulls/Glasgow Warriors); C Townsend (Ayrshire Bulls), E Cunningham (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors); T Banatalava (Durham Uni), P Harrison (Southern Knights/Edinburgh), C Bowker (Leeds Becket Uni), E Ferrie (Glasgow Hawks), A Samuel (Stirling County/ Glasgow Warriors) (captain), A Smeaton (Cambridge Uni), R Tait (Southern Knights), R Jackson (Ayrshire Bulls/Glasgow Warriors). Substitutes: D Hood (Heriot’s), M Jones (Boroughmuir Bears), G Breese (Stirling Wolves), M Williamson (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors), O Leatherbarrow (Exeter Uni), B Muncaster (Watsonians/Edinburgh), M Redpath (Newcastle Uni), E McVickar (Melrose), E Gourlay (Sale), A Scott (GHA), A Clayton (Bath Uni).