WITH Georgia also still winless so far in this Six Nations Summer Series campaign, tomorrow [Wednesday] night’s final pool match against the Eastern Europeans offers Scotland Under-20s their best chance yet of of getting their campaign up and running – but head coach Kenny Murray has warned that it would be an error to underestimate the challenge which lies in wait at the Stadio di Monigo.
Georgia have come out on top in both the previous matches these nations have played at this level, winning 17-12 against a Scotland side containing current senior squad members Ewan Ashman, Ross Thompson and Murphy Walker during the 2019 Junior World Championship, and 39-31 against a side featuring Rory Darge and Kyle Rowe as well as Thompson and Murphy at the 2018 tournament.
They have also been more competitive than Scotland in their two matches so far in this competition against Italy and Wales, picking up a losing bonus-point in the latter of those games which has left Murray’s side rooted to the foot of Pool B. Scotland have a points differential of -50 as opposed to -23 for Georgia.
“We’re looking forward to it, we want to win against Georgia and get ourselves in that third-place spot in the pool, but we know it is going to be tough,” said Murray. “If they [Georgia] had won that line-out in the last play of their game last week, they would probably have beaten Wales, so they’ll feel they have a point to prove.
“They have some big, physical men in the pack who we will need to front-up against, and we saw with the first two tries they scored against Italy that they come alive from turnover ball, so we have been looking at that as well,” he added. “We know we are going to have to be on our toes because they’ve got some guys who will hurt you if you switch off in defence against them.
“The thing people don’t get sometimes is that they’ve now got a 10-strong semi-pro league, so they’ve really taken rugby forward in their country and we’re going to have to be at our very best to compete with them.”
Murray explained the four changes he has made to the starting XV sent out against Italy last Thursday, which includes two of his most experienced forwards in hooker Patrick Harrison and No 8 Ollie Leatherbarrow dropping to the bench.
“Both have missed a fair bit of rugby recently so neither is conditioned to play 80 minutes at the moment, and we also feel that bringing them on when Georgia are maybe beginning to tire can really have a big impact to help us finish off the game,” the coach explained.
“Also, Gregor Hiddleston has played really well for us at hooker when he’s had a chance so he’s there on merit, and Tim Brown is raring to go in the back-row after missing the last match with a leg knock.”
Behind the scrum, Christian Townsend returns in place of Euan Cunningham at stand-off, while Keiran Clark returns at full-back with Gabe Jones moving to the wing and Ross McKnight misses out on selection to the match-day squad.
“We feel that Gabe’s game offers more of what we need on the wing at the moment so we’ve brought Keiran Clark back in at full-back, so Ross McKnight misses out on selection this week,” said Murray. “Christian Townsend and Euan Cunningham are rotating round at stand-off.”
Scots-qualified South African back-row Euan Groenewald has been named on the bench.
“It has been tough for him coming late to the environment, and his attacking game has been really good playing in those wide channels, but he’s perhaps been a bit slower picking up how we defend than we hoped he would be,” said Murray. “He’s up against some tough opposition in the back-row with Liam McConnell, Ollie Leatherbarrow, Tim Brown and Rhys Tait, but is looking forward to getting his chance.”
To see Scotland Under-20s team to face Georgia click HERE.