MARK Bennett returns to the Scotland under-20 team alongside Gala hooker Russell Anderson as the team is strengthened for tomorrow’s final home match in the shadow Six Nations campaign.
The young Scots, coached by Sean Lineen, Simon Cross and John Dalziel, have mirrored the senior side in claiming two wins from their opening three games, and might have had a historic first win over England in the opener but for a slice of luck going against them at Newcastle.
After wins over Italy and Ireland in Galashiels the under-20 bandwagon rolls north, to Inverness’ Tulloch Stadium for the visit of championship leaders Wales. The Scots face their hardest challenge yet but are seeking to emulate the achievement of the class of 2009 and claim three championship victories, and tee-up the potential for a new record of four when they travel to France.
Bennett was named man of the match against Italy but he was needed by Glasgow a fortnight ago and so missed out on the win against Ireland. He returns to the midfield to partner Gala’s Chris Auld, while Anderson resumes in the front row between Shawn Muir of Hawick, who makes his first start, and Ayr’s D’arcy Rae.
There is also a change at scrum-half with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne having suffered a leg injury in the Ireland game, opening the door for Ali Price with Leicester’s Scott Steele named on the bench.
Lineen said: “Friday’s game is going to be a big challenge, but this group of players has momentum and belief and they are desperate to do well.
“This is a chance to measure ourselves against the only unbeaten team in the Six Nations so far, and they are also in our Junior World Championship pool. Wales have a big set-piece and they are talented ball-players. It’s imperative that we’re disciplined and focused on Friday.”
The last under-20 team to win three games was the 2009 side featuring Richie Gray, brother of current skipper Jonny, and also Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne and Chris Fusaro, who defeated Ireland, Italy and Wales, while the only under-21 side to achieve the feat in over a decade of clashes was one eight years ago that included Greig Laidlaw, Ross Ford, Johnnie Beattie and Nick de Luca.
Scotland U20s (v Wales U20s tomorrow at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium in Inverness, 7.35pm, admission free): Ruaridh Young (Edinburgh Accies), Damien Hoyland (Boroughmuir), Chris Auld (Gala), Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Hughes (Scotland 7s), Tommy Allan (unattached), Ali Price (Bedford), Shawn Muir (Hawick), Russell Anderson (Gala), D’arcy Rae (Ayr), Ruaridh Leishman (Edinburgh Accies), Jonny Gray (Glasgow) capt, Alex Henderson (Boroughmuir), Will Bordill (Sale), Adam Ashe (Glasgow). Subs: Callum Black (Edinburgh Accies), Jamie Bhatti (Stirling County), Phil Cringle (Edinburgh), Cameron Turner (Aberdeen Grammar), Tommy Spinks (London Scottish), Scott Steele (Leicester), Robbie Fergusson (Ayr), Keith Buchan (Boroughmuir).