U20 World Champs: Scotland ring the changes again for Georgia decider

Wingers Rory McMichael and Jack Blain, and second-row Ewan Johnson, are the only players to start all three pool matches

Jack Blain is one of three Scotland players making their third consecutive appearance in this year's U20 World Championship. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

CARL HOGG has retuned to the starting XV which he sent out in Scotland’s World Rugby U20 Championship opener against South Africa just over a week ago as his side look to pick up a first win of the campaign in their final pool match, which will give them a fighting chance of securing a place in the 5th to 8th place play-offs next week.

The head coach made 12 changes to his South Africa team for Saturday’s match against New Zealand, and several fringe players seized the opportunity as Scotland scored five tries and secured their best ever result against that opposition at this age-grade, before eventually going down 52-33 to the ‘Baby Blacks’.

However, Hogg has decided that his front-liners had enough credit in the bank after their strong performance against South Africa to merit a recall, and he will also be mindful that they should benefit from the freshness which comes from having sat out the New Zealand game.

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“I was proud of the players’ resilience to bounce back from a poor start against New Zealand,” said Hogg. “There were spells within the game where we were competitive and put them under real pressure, while I thought some of the tries we scored were an excellent example of the attacking blueprint we are trying to implement.

“However, we must learn to be more robust and stop conceding soft tries if we are to convert these battling displays into results

“If we continue to display that battling spirit and play intelligent, smart rugby in the right areas of the field – like we did against New Zealand – then I’ve got every belief this squad can take the next step in this Championship.

“The beauty of the last two matches is that all 28 players from the squad have fully contributed and we travel into the Georgia game in reasonably good health.

“Georgia, like South Africa and New Zealand before them, present a different challenge and we will have to adapt to their physical and forward-based style of play. We need to impose our own style of play on the contest while being respectful of Georgia’s strengths.”

Winger Rory McMichael and Jack Blain, and second-row Ewan Johnson, are the only three players in the side to have started all three matches.

Scotland’s bonus point against New Zealand puts them one point ahead of Georgia in Pool C, but the eastern Europeans have shown that they are no pushovers when producing battling performances in both their matches against New Zealand (45-13) and South Africa (48-20).

Even if Scotland pick up a bonus point win against Georgia, they must rely on other results going their way if they are to avoid the 9th to 12th place play-offs, and therefore escape the spectre of finishing bottom which will mean relegation out of this top tier tournament.

Scotland Under-20s (to face Georgia  at Racecourse Stadium, Rosario in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Wednesday 12 June – kick-off 2.30pm BST, 10.30am local time): Matt Davidson (London Scottish); Rory McMichael (Heriot’s), Cameron Anderson (Wasps), Grant Hughes (Stirling County), 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). Subs: 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), Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros),  Ollie Smith (Ayr), Lomond MacPherson (Watsonians).

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About David Barnes 4002 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.