U20 World Trophy: Scotland revert to strength in depth for Japan showdown

Head coach Kenny Murray goes with team that began matchday one thrashing of Samoa for pool decider

Freddy Douglas
Freddy Douglas scores for Scotland against Hong Kong China. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

KENNY Murray has unsurprisingly named what he believes to be his strongest starting 15 for Friday night’s World Under-20 Trophy Pool A decider against Japan – the same 15, that is, which began the 123-15 win over Samoa on matchday one.

Murray rested some of his players for last Sunday’s 101-0 victory over Hong Kong China, while winger and vice-captain Geordie Gwynn had to sit that game out because of injury.

The head coach has not quite had a full squad to choose from, as both No 8 Jonny Morris and winger Ludo Kolade have been ruled out of the rest of the tournament because of injury, their places in the squad having gone to Edinburgh’s Ollie Duncan and Glasgow’s Kerr Johnston respectively. But Gywnn is back for the game, the Blyth-Lafferty brothers both start in the front row, and Tom Currie returns to the back row.

U20 World Trophy: Scotland score second century against Hong Kong China

U20 World Trophy: 19-try Scotland blow away Samoa for record win in campaign opener

USA v Scotland: all change for tourists as Gregor Townsend turns to the tried and tested

“We started what we felt was our strongest team in that first game,” Murray said. “And we wanted to give guys an opportunity [in the second match]. This game is obviously going to be a much tougher game, so we’re going back to what we feel is a stronger team.

“Japan are playing well and have dominated the other two teams in the group, similar to ourselves. They probably stuttered a little bit early on in the Samoa game – they were 27-10 up at half-time and then scored 50 or so points in the second half, [winning 81-7]. 

“So we know they’re a team that finish well. But we’ve been playing well ourselves.”

Having racked up a 105-20 win over Hong Kong China as well as beating Samoa pretty heavily, Japan sit on 10 match points, as do Scotland.

However, Murray’s team are ahead by 50 points when it comes to points differential, and that will be the determinant factor should Friday’s game be a draw from which the two sides take the same number of match points.

The winners of the game will go through to Wednesday’s final against the winners of Pool B, with a place in next year’s World Championship the ultimate prize.

The USA are currently three points clear of the Netherlands in Pool B, and play pointless Kenya on Friday.

Scotland Under-20s (v Japan U20s at the Hive, Friday 7.45pm): F Watson; F Doyle, J Ventisei, F Thomson, G Gwynn; A McLean, C McAlpine; R Deans, J Blyth-Lafferty, O Blyth-Lafferty, E McVie, R Burke, L McConnell (captain), F Douglas, T Currie. Replacements: S Stephen, B White, C Norrie, R Hart, D Cockburn, H Patterson, K Yule, J Hocking.

About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. For me to refer to one side as “our strongest team” is poor squad management. Whilst that may be true, whilst it may be what the players feel or think, saying it makes it fact. It is an absolute gut punch for those players benched. It achieves nothing in terms of motivating the starting XV, demoralises the squad players has zero impact on opposition. Not ideal, in my opinion.

    • Thought the same when I read the ‘our strongest team’ quote. Poor man management, quite demoralising for the rest that are clearly viewed as second best. In a club environment, that’s the kind of statement from a head coach that would see players want to leave…

      • Indeed, but sadly entirely in keeping with the way things have been done with u20s since this regime came in. Coaches never take responsibility and continually throw players under the bus.

        • Didn’t KM say something similarly inappropriate during a previous campaign? Think he effectively highlighted that certain players hadn’t played well/hadn’t done what they’d been asked to do. I remember him being criticised for saying something that should have been kept in house… just like this ‘strongest team’ comment.

    • To be fair if I was a player I would be going to the manager and asking why I’m not in the strongest side (starting) and what I can do about it or I can wilt away like a flower. Selection conversations should have been had between players and coaches. Everyone should know exactly where they stand and toys shouldn’t be getting thrown over a post selection media announcement.

    • Spot on. What a statement to come out with. As a head coach he has just shown how out off depth and touch he is with young player giving him their all week after week. Putting their body’s on the line.
      No wonder the boys can’t wait to get this shambles over with. Win or loose they all have to go. P45 for all and management.

    • 100% agree with this. The boys who’ve been benched or not been given any opportunity whatsoever to show what they can do, know exactly what these coaches are doing. There has been no uplifting of spirits but plenty lame excuses after excuses to not give the full squad the chances they ALL deserve. They also know exactly what they’re doing but continue as they fear losing the uplift more than they fear the regret they’ll feel once these boys turn round and tell them they’ve had enough and won’t train or play under them again in U20’s.
      Win or lose, these ‘coaches’ must be sent on coaching courses.

  2. Really? The boys are in positive mode going in to Japan game; they hardly need you guys’ negative attitude. Your beef with the coaching staff is well documented, but there’s a time and a place for that. Until then, how’s about backing the team.

    • There was no mention of the boys in my post. Like many others I’m surprised KM is still in charge, not many survive successive failures, it doesn’t mean I’m not backing the team. A few lads in the team that I’ve known for several years, hope they do well…

      Scotland’s forwards will almost certainly win the game for them.

    • Well there are some who would suggest that this is exactly the time and the place to suggest a more diplomatic way of expressing what Murray and the Coaching staff consider to be their ‘best’ team. How about ‘We have looked at the opposition and selected a side that we think is appropriate for this game’.
      That would be a better way of expressing the selection.

  3. Not sure how anyone can give this comment a thumbs down.

    If Scotland don’t win the tournament Murray has to go, along with a few others. He has been very fortunate to be given so many chances already.


Leave a Reply

Please be respectful in your replies. Abusive language is automatically blocked. Your email address will not be published.