U20 World Trophy: Scotland v Hong Kong China: hosts must stay sharp ahead of crunch clashes

Another big win on the cards but Kenny Murray's side can't take foot off the gas

Callum Norrie starts at tight-head prop for Scotland Under-20s against Hong Kong China in round two of the World Rugby U20s Trophy tomorrow [Sunday] afternoon. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Callum Norrie starts at tight-head prop for Scotland Under-20s against Hong Kong China in round two of the World Rugby U20s Trophy tomorrow [Sunday] afternoon. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

HOW do you play against a side that shipped over a ton of points in their  opening match?  That’s the problem facing Scotland today when they take on Hong Kong China in round two of the World Rugby u20 Trophy on Sunday at the Hive Stadium, five days before the Scots’ pool-deciding clash with fellow promotion hopefuls, Japan. 

To recap: In their first round match, of the u20 Trophy last Tuesday, Hong Kong conceded over a century of points against last season’s Championship-relegated country, Japan, in a 105-20 defeat. For a short time that statistic went down in the record books as the biggest score and biggest margin of victory in an u20 international match.

But in a bizarre turn of events and just four hours later, Scotland eclipsed what was a prodigious performance by Japan by inflicting a 123-15 horror defeat on Samoa, to send the record writers scurrying back to alter their official scripts.


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These two record-setting results have beset both Scotland and Japan with the same dilemma: do they try to replicate their first round scores or do they keep their powder dry and not reveal any secret weapon that each might deploy in the all important third round clash next Friday, when Scotland and Japan, the two heavyweights of Pool A, meet to decide the group ranking order and in all likelihood the one promotion spot back to the top tier under-20 Championship for the 2025 iteration?

What these second round matches will offer is the chance for each of Japan, who face Samoa, and Scotland, who play Hong Kong China, to give their less experienced players a game to put themselves forward for selection. In the case of Scotland, the coaching team will want to look closely at Ludo Kolade (Harlequins/Bath University) to see if he lives up to the rave reviews passed on by his two clubs.

Likewise the Melrose forward, Dylan Cockburn, who can fit into any of the back five positions in the pack, who still qualifies for under-19 rugby and who has already featured for Southern Knights, will be closely looked at, along with hooker Seb Stephen, currently unattached. Another key player being monitored is stand-off Matthew Urwin, who will have the confidence-lifting advantage of playing alongside his former St Aloysius College team mate John Ventisei.

What we can expect from Scotland is an expansive game on the back of solid control by the forwards. It would be doubtful if Scotland would use the potent weapon that is the driving maul: that piece of heavy armoury, one suspects, will be kept for the Japan game.

As for Hong Kong China, it will be another difficult game. Their problems are numerous but stem from the fact that some of their players are not based in the former overseas territory and as such squad training sessions have been difficult. Moreover, they have a relatively small player base from which to choose their squad, albeit the population of the Hong Kong is greater than that of Scotland.

Then there is the ‘China’ bit of Hong Kong China. Efforts have been made to popularise rugby in mainland China but in spite of some success in the sevens game, the Peoples Republic has not embraced to a great degree the oval ball sport.

Another bullet point is the qualification process which, one has to say, does not appear to be testing enough to ensure the winner is of sufficient strength to compete in World Rugby’s Under-20 Trophy. Hong Kong China secured their place in the Trophy by winning the Asia Regional conference beating Chinese Taipei 22-7 before achieving an emphatic 62-7 win over Korea.

 

 

Crucially, Hong Kong China did not have to play against Japan, who as the relegated Championship side from last year, were, like hosts Scotland, automatic qualifiers for this tournament, thus easing the way for Hong Kong to reach the second tier World event.

Any tampering with this qualification process, however, would not go down well within World Rugby circles, who very much want to project an image of a game with global reach. Having a repechage involving ,say. Portugal and Hong Kong might never happen, even if some non-qualifiers from the European sector would add real heft to the Trophy line-up.

If the first two rounds will have represented a discouraging experience for Hong Kong then at least they should enjoy themselves when they take on Samoa in the final group match next Friday and then on the final day (17th July) when they face an equivalent strength team from Group B.

Meanwhile, ahead of the Scotland game, no less a figure than Alex Allan, the former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland loose-head prop, and now the Hong Kong China Under-20s forwards mentor, will have worked hard with his charges in the expectation that the Scots have a lot of high quality operators in their frontal eight.

Allan, who qualified for Scotland through his grandfather also represented Edinburgh, Sale Sharks, Scotland u17, Scotland u18 Scotland A and significantly Scotland Under-20s, is now 34. His main day job is as director of rugby at Hong Kong Scottish, supplemented by helping to coach the national Hong Kong China team.


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About Alan Lorimer 370 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

3 Comments

  1. I hope Scotland smash HK to tiny embarrassed pieces and they stop pretending to participate on the world stage. That’s all.

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  2. “For a short time that statistic went down in the record books as the biggest score and biggest margin of victory in an u20 international match.”

    Not true.

    England 109-0 win over USA in 2013 U20 Championship remains the biggest margin of victory.

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    1

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