LOUDSPEAKERS blasting the noise of a rowdy opposition crowd have been used at training IN recent weeks to help he Scotland Under-20s team prepare for the atmosphere of playing in big Six Nations matches.
Sean Lineen’s side take on Italy at the 17,000 capacity Stadio Mirabello in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia tomorrow [Friday] night, looking for their first win so far in this Six Nations campaign. It will be a tough task given that their opponents picked up an impressive 7-17 win away to Wales in round one, and then led France 14-19 at half-time before eventually losing 31-19 in round two.
On home soil for the first time in the championship, the Azzurri will be desperate to make it five wins on the bounce against Scotland at this level. “It will be a narrow pitch – a passionate, tough and loud game,” acknowledged Lineen.
Having managed two losing bonus-points from their games so far against Ireland and England, the young Scots know that they are not a million miles off the pace – but being gallant losers is not enough, and no stone has been left unturned in the quest to pick up a win this week.
“Against Ireland we let the game slip away before coming back into it, and the England game was really frustrating because we deserved to win and lost it,” said Lineen. “So, we need to get out there this week and do our talking on the pitch.
“With the systems that we are developing, you’d like to think their ability to cope with the physical and mental pressure will improve,” he continued. “We’re trying to give them environments where they will be challenged.
“We have been trying to replicate the crowd noise [at training], we have done that twice now and it really gets them going.
“We did it for the Ireland game – playing Fields of Athenry and so on really loudly – and have now done it again for Italy. You can see how nervous they get and that is mental pressure.
“They don’t play in front of big crowds a lot. The French youngsters play in front of 25,000 while we don’t, so we need to try to replicate that and make sure they learn. It would be great to learn while winning.
“There are no excuses this week,” he added. “I have been really pleased with how the boys have rolled their sleeves up and worked hard in a tough week given the weather.”
Lineen has made three changes to the team which started against England a fortnight ago with flanker Gregor Brown, scrum-half Kyle McGhie and winger Rufus McLean – who are all attached to the Borougmuir Bears Super6 franchise – getting the nod, while Jack Hill, Roan Frostwick and Harry Paterson drop to the bench.
Scotland U20s (v Italy on Friday, at Stadio Mirabello, kick-off 6pm GMT): Ollie Smith (Ayrshire Bulls); Rufus McLean (Boroughmuir Bears), Matthew Currie (Watsonians Rugby), Robbie McCallum (Boroughmuir Bears), Jacob Henry (Southern Knights); Nathan Chamberlain (Hartpury College/Bristol Bears), Kyle McGhie (Boroughmuir Bears) ; Thomas Lambert (Sydney University), Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks), Mak Wilson (Southern Knights), Kieran Watt (Watsonians Rugby), Cameron Henderson (Stirling County), Gregor Brown (Boroughmuir Bears), Connor Boyle (Watsonians Rugby), Rory Darge (Southern Knights)©.
Substitutes: Rory Jackson (Watsonians Rugby), George Breese (Stirling Wolves), Alex Maxwell (Stourbridge), Jamie Campbell (Biggar), Jack Hill (Durham University), Roan Frostwick (Watsonians Rugby), Cameron Scott (Boroughmuir Bears), Harry Paterson (Heriot’s Rugby).