If Scotland are to emulate their 2015 predecessors in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship then victory over Italy in this afternoon’s final Pool B match at the Manchester City Academy Stadium is a necessary step in the process.
After today’s third-round matches the teams, initially drawn into three groups of four, are ranked in order of points gained in the pool matches from one to 12.
The top four countries play for the World title over rounds four and five, the next quartet play for fifth to eighth place, and the bottom four for ninth to 12th. The 12th-placed finisher is relegated to the second-tier World Under-20 Trophy, a competition that features the likes of USA, Canada, Fiji and Samoa.
A win for the Scots today would put them into the fifth to eighth group and guarantee that the Scots would finish the championship in at least the same position as last year.
What seems likely is that England, Ireland and Argentina will book their places in the cup semi-finals along with one of New Zealand, Wales, South Africa or France. Les Bleus, however, could drop into the bottom group of countries, a fate that would await Scotland if they lose today.
“The Italy game is massive for us,” said the Scotland under-20 head coach, John Dalziel, pictured, who has seen his side pull off a shock win over Australia before last weekend’s 44-0 defeat by England. “Against England there were too may unforced errors. We were turned over much too often. Because we didn’t hold on to the ball we didn’t have many chances to strike.”
He added: “There is no doubt that Italy will have targeted us in this tournament. They put out a mixed team against England in their first game and then played well against Australia.” In fact, Italy led Australia 10-7 at half time before succumbing.
Scotland struggled against a powerful Italian scrum in the under-20 Six Nations, eventually winning 24-14.
Prop Zander Fagerson is back in the Scots team as is stand-off Adam Hastings, whose return from a head knock injury allows Blair Kinghorn to revert to his Edinburgh position of full-back. But lock Andrew Davidson will take no further part in the tournament after suffering a concussion during Saturday’s match against England. Davidson is replaced by the Currie second row Stephen Ainslie.