SCOTLAND’S 105-year quest to beat New Zealand at any level of rugby will continue next month when Sean Lineen’s side face the “Baby Blacks” in their first pool match at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Italy.
Linen, the original “Kilted Kiwi” needs no reminding of Scotland’s consistent failure to overturn the land of his birth – with draws in 1964 and 1983 as good as it gets. Lineen was in the touring side of Grand Slam winners who came within a whisker at Eden Park in 1990, losing 21-18 despite outscoring the hosts two tries to one.
The young Scots will go in as big underdogs when they take the field in Parma on 2 June but, asked if his lads could be the side that finally makes history, the former centre said: “There has to be a first time. I’m an optimistic guy. But of course it’s going to be tough. Every single one of our guys will have to bring their A game and New Zealand will have to have an off day for us to have a chance, that’s just how it is.
“But the guys are really looking forward to that game in particular, we’ve had a good look at them. They’re New Zealand, they’ll be strong but we’ll concentrate on ourselves.”
Alongside Glasgow’s table-topping charge to the Guinness Pro12 play-offs and Edinburgh’s run to the European Challenge Cup final, Scottish rugby’s other feelgood story of the year to soothe the pain of another Wooden Spoon has been the performance of the under-20s in the junior Six Nations.
The Scots won all three of their home games against Wales, Italy and Ireland to finish third in the table and a fine crop of young players -– Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Zander Fagerson, Robbie Nairn and Blair Kinghorn to pick out just a few – are developing nicely. The World Cup, for which the squad are now preparing for in a BT Murrayfield training camp before flying out on Tuesday, will be a fresh challenge. They have been drawn in a tough pool that includes Ireland and Argentina as well as New Zealand, but Lineen is relishing the test.
“It is a big difference from the Six Nations, this is the global stage,” said the head coach. “It really will be tough, they’ll be coming up against guys who play Super Rugby week in, week out. But these boys are the most focused in the three years I’ve been in the job – great to work with, they’re like sponges”
World U20 Championship
Scotland’s Pool C fixtures
Tues 2 June: New Zealand v Scotland, Stadio XXV Aprile, Parma (kick-off 7.30pm)
Sat 6 June: Ireland v Scotland, Stadio San Michele, Calvisano (kick-off 3.30pm)
Wed 10 June: Argentina v Scotland: Stadio San Michele, Calvisano (kick-off 3.30pm)
Scotland U20 squad:
Forwards: Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Lewis Carmichael (Melrose), Scott Cummings (Glasgow), Andrew Davidson (Glasgow), Dan Elkington (Watsonians), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), Ross Graham (Hawick), Neil Irvine-Hess (Melrose), Sam James (Wasps), Ruaridh Knott (Melrose), Murray McCallum (Aberdeen Grammar), Ally Miller (Edinburgh), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Gary Robertson (Gala), Callum Sheldon (Edinburgh), Lewis Wynne (Stirling Co)
Backs: Alec Coombes (London Scottish), Tom Galbraith (Melrose), Richard Galloway (University of Birmingham), George Horne (Glasgow Hawks), Ruairi Howarth (Edinburgh), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton), Patrick Kelly (Le Parc), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Academy/Edinburgh Academicals), Robbie Nairn (George Watson’s College/Currie), Archie Russell (Stirling County), Ruaraidh Smith (Currie), Ben Vellacott (Gloucester)