HAVING achieved a notable breakthrough last Wednesday with a first ever win over Argentina in the World Under-20 Championship, Scotland could create a second piece of history if they can produce a result against Australia in today’s fifth place semi-final.
“Last time we played Australia was in South Africa  and we got absolutely pumped. But that means nothing in the context of this match. The guys have an opportunity to do what we’ve never done before,” said the Scotland Under-20 head coach, Sean Lineen.
The young Wallabies were at the end of a heavy 46-13 thumping by South Africa in their final group match. More- over, they have lost on average three line-outs per match in the championship. But they did show that when they had possession they were dangerous.
“Australia are a quality team. They play a fast game with ball in hand. So we’ll have to stop them getting a lot of ball. Our set-piece has worked for us so far and we showed against Argentina that we can be an effective attacking team.
“Defensively we had a 92 per cent rate against Argentina, which is fantastic and the best ever. So that’s a benchmark that we want to replicate against this Australian team. We just don’t want the performance against Argentina to be a one-off. It’s important to back that up,” insisted Lineen.
For the final two rounds of the championship, the teams have a less compressed match schedule with a four-day gap now in place. That stretching-out of the tournament over the final two stages followed complaints four years ago, when the championship was last in Italy, from several teams, led by Ireland, who threatened to withdraw unless player welfare was improved.
“Hopefully it will make a difference physically. But when you’re on a roll that three-day cycle in the first three games was good,” said Lineen, whose players are now acclimatised to temperatures over 30 degrees accompanied by high humidity.
Rain and temperatures less high are forecast for today. For the match today against Australia, switched from Viadana to Calvisano, Scotland will be without their utility back-five forward, Neil Irvine-Hess, who received a bang on the head in last Wednesday’s match, and is therefore required to sit out this game under the concussion protocol, now in place for under-19 players and older.
Concussion has been an issue, too, for France, four of whose under-18s have been barred from taking any further part in the tournament.
Also forced to miss today’s game is prop Murray McCallum, now with Aberdeen Grammar Rugby, who sustained a slight injury against Argentina. McCallum, as with Irvine-Hess, should be fit to play in the last match against either Ireland or Wales. The absence of McCallum, however, has created an opportunity for his understudy Dan Elkington, the Watsonians front row.
Behind the scrum Lineen has selected the same back line that impressed against Argentina, while among the replacement backs, Stirling County’s Archie Russell returns after a two-match suspension for a dangerous tackle.
Scotland’s match against Australia at Calvisano will be followed by the two top-end semi-finals, with France playing New Zealand and then South Africa facing England.
Elsewhere, Ireland take on Wales in Viadana, which also hosts the game between Argentina and the home nation Italy and what could be a relegation game featuring Samoa and Japan.
l Co-optimists finished fifth in the final round of the GB7s at Colwyn Bay on Saturday after winning the Plate final with victory over Welsh Charitables. The Scots had hopes of reaching the Cup semi-final but defeats by eventual winners Samurai by 31-5, and Irish Wolfhounds by 22-19, consigned the Co-ops to the Plate, their consolation being a win over Welsh Charitables.
In the second tier competition, Co-ops blasted past Forces Exiles to take them through to the final against Welsh Charitables.
In the final, Co-ops made it a double over the Welsh side, winning 31-24.
Team: Scotland under-20 (v Australia) : B Kinghorn (Edinburgh), R Nairn (Harlequins), A Coombes (London Scottish), P Kelly (Le Parc), R Galloway (University of Birmingham); R Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), B Vellacott (Gloucester/Hartpury College); D Elkington (Watsonians), R Graham (Hawick), Z Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), S Cummings (Glasgow Warriors/Glasgow Hawks), A Davidson (Glasgow Warriors/Glasgow Hawks), L Wynne (Stirling County), J Ritchie (capt, Edinburgh Rugby), M Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby) Replacements S James (Bedford Blues), C Sheldon (Edinburgh Rugby/Watsonians), J Owlett (Exeter University), A Miller (Edinburgh Rugby/Watsonians), R Knott (Melrose), G Horne (Glasgow Hawks), T Galbraith (Melrose), A Russell (Stirling County)