Consistency the key if Scotland U20s want success against Wales

It’s not often you can finish on the wrong side of a 42-27 hammering and still be weighing the positives in the palm of your hand.

France No 8 Jordan Joseph reacts after scoring against Scotland. Picture: Iroz Gaizka/AFP/Getty
France No 8 Jordan Joseph reacts after scoring against Scotland. Picture: Iroz Gaizka/AFP/Getty

That was coach Carl Hogg’s situation after seeing his Scotland U20 side bounce back from a 21-0 deficit to lead France early in the second half having scored four unanswered tries.

It didn’t last, though, as the French regrouped and made the game safe. “There are aspects of our game which are really pleasing, especially with the ball in hand when we get opportunities we look very sharp and very clinical, said Hogg of his side’s last performance.

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“The key challenge for us, which we have discussed as group all week, is getting that base layer to perform consistently and execute consistently under pressure. That’s the key to an 80-minute performance. At the moment we can go out and create tries and create opportunities, but can we sit in the contest when it is about doing the simple things consistently, time after time? That’s the real challenge for us. At the moment we haven’t been able to do that consistently over 80 minutes.

“I think there have been huge improvements over the first three games, especially in our understanding around defence and attack shape. But, again, I came back to the basics. In a true contest of international rugby, it’s not necessarily the bells and whistles that win games, it’s the basics consistently done well under pressure, especially when the intensity and physicality of a game ramps up. Can you perform the simple tasks consistently under pressure?”

The young Scots get another opportunity to answer that question in tomorrow night’s game against Wales at Meggetland. The team has two changes from the side that performed well in France. South African born Kwagga van Niekerk returns to the middle of the back row and Wasps centre Cameron Anderson starts in the 13 shirt after coming off the bench against France just minutes into the match to replace the injured Grant Hughes.

Jack Blain claimed two tries against France and found himself starting for Edinburgh against Benetton last weekend, where he acquitted himself very well. He gets a start on one wing while Heriots’ Rory McMichael starts on the other.

Up front, the starting props Murphy Walker and Euan McLaren were something of a revelation against a giant French pack, winning more than one set piece scrum penalty before the Scots struggled when the inevitable slew of substitutions took place.

Wales juniors got the better of England last time out so they will provide a stern test of the Scots’ mettle at Meggetland. In fact the task facing his side will, according to Hogg, be very similar to that facing the senior Scotland side a day later.

“They are very similar to the full national team in terms of characteristics,” says Hogg of Wales 20’s. “A good hard straight defensive press and very aggressive in their line speed.

“They will look to have a threat over ball and they’re very structured in the back end of the field, so exits are really simple. Inside their own half they’ll look to kick very early so they won’t expose themselves to any risks. They’re looking to get high field position, and squeeze you in possession and territory.”