CARL HOGG has made two positional and two personnel change to his Scotland Under-20s line-up ahead of taking on Italy in the semi-final of the 9th to 12th place play-offs at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina tomorrow [Monday] afternoon. All of these changes are in the back-line, with the pack unchanged.
Wasps Academy player Cameron Anderson has switched from outside centre to full-back with Matt Davidson dropping out, and Heriot’s man Rory McMichael has shifted from the right wing to that outside centre berth. Meanwhile, Lomond MacPherson of Watsonians – initially from Oban – starts on the wing, and Robbie McCallum of Spanish side Complutense Cisneros is a straight swap for the concussed Grant Hughes at inside-centre.
The young Scots lost their three pool matches – including a heartbreak late surrender to Georgia on Wednesday – which means they are now in the bottom rung of play-off games. But they must put past disappointments to one side because two more losses in their remaining matches will see them finish bottom of the rankings and relegated out of this annual tournament for the world’s top rugby nations next summer.
Italy are also winless from their pool three matches so far, against Australia, England and Ireland, but have been competitive in all three outings. They Azzurri will draw confidence from having defeated Scotland 22-32 at Netherdale in the opening round of last season’s Six Nations.
“We were obviously disappointed with our overall performance against Georgia,” said Hogg. “We lacked control and accuracy throughout the 80 minutes. We never got the match on our agenda of high tempo multi-phase rugby because of the errors we created in our game.
“We probably put in our poorest performance of this World Rugby U20 Championship in the most pivotal match of this tournament, but the nature of this competition is that we don’t have time to dwell on the result. We need to get back on the horse for tomorrow’s fixture against Italy.
“Italy are obviously a team we know well from the U20 Six Nations. They have an abrasive pack with some really dangerous ball-carriers, while their backline contains some threatening and elusive runners.
“Throughout this year’s Championship there have been glimpses of the potential that this squad can achieve but we need to focus on doing the simple things well under the pressure of international competition.
“We lost the first three games of the U20 6 Nations campaign earlier this year and produced a fantastic performance against Wales. It was a performance full of fight, grit and character aligned with smart rugby decisions throughout the 80 mins. We’re looking for a similar, if not better performance in game four of this Championship.”
Scotland U20 team (versus Italy U20 at Club Old Resian, Rosario in the World Rugby U20 Championship 9th place semi-final on Monday 17 June – kick-off 2.30pm BST, 10.30am local time): Cameron Anderson (Wasps); Lomond MacPherson (Watsonians), Rory McMichael (Heriot’s), Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros), Jack Blain (Heriot’s); Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks), Roan Frostwick (Currie Chieftains); Murphy Walker (Stirling County), Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks), Euan McLaren (Ayr), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92), Cameron Henderson (Stirling County), Marshall Sykes (Ayr), Connor Boyle (Watsonians), Tom Marshall (Newcastle Falcons)
Replacements: Rory Jackson (Edinburgh Academy), Andrew Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks), Will Hurd (Cardiff Metropolitan University), Mak Wilson (Melrose), Ross Bundy (Stirling County), Jack Hill (Durham University), Kwagga van Niekerk (Lions), Murray Scott (Watsonians), Teddy Leatherbarrow (Sale Sharks), Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol Bears), Ollie Smith (Ayr), Matt Davidson (London Scottish).