Scotland Under-20s coach Bryan Redpath wants his young charges to harness the “emotion” that always comes with a clash against England but warned them to keep their cool in a World Championship tournament which has taken a hard line on discipline.
The young Scots face the English in Béziers tonight hoping to avoid a Pool B whitewash against a team who have won both their opening games. Whatever happens there will be two more games to come for Scotland and Redpath insists that they are determined to finish the tournament in as high a placing as they possibly can.
A repeat of their junior Six Nations win over England would provide a boost in that endeavour and the coach says that his charges are bursting to put in a good showing after the frustration of defeats by Italy and Argentina in the opening two rounds. However, he stressed the need for calm heads and pointed to the fact that a disciplinary committee, which includes former Scotland coach Frank Hadden and women’s international Beth Dickens, had already banned four players, including an England lock, for the rest of the tournament after dangerous play.
“This tournament is different with the way it’s refereed and with the citing process,” said Redpath. “There have been four players sent home already for high tackles, so we have to keep our cool.
“We, as a nation, can’t afford to go 14 men or get anyone sent home. We have to play with emotion as well. We have to get right up there for the game. England are probably in the top two to three favourites to win the competition.”
Redpath has made a number of changes but, even if the opening two games hadn’t been lost, that was always going to be the case in what is a gruelling schedule as the youngsters face their third game in eight days.
A revamped front-row sees props Ross Dunbar and Finlay Richardson pack down next to hooker Robbie Smith – who is named as captain – while Ewan Johnson and Heriot’s Charlie Jupp form a new-look second-row.
Newcastle Falcons’ Guy Graham – a late call-off in Sunday’s loss to Argentina with a dead leg – is named at openside flanker, while Watsonians’ James Miller makes his first appearance of the tournament at No 8.
A fresh half-back pairing sees Glasgow Hawks’ Ross Thompson, who will take goalkicking duties, named at stand-off alongside scrum-half Charlie Gowling. Melrose outside-centre Patrick Anderson – who missed the Six Nations due to injury – returns to action to partner Northampton Saints’ Fraser Strachan in the midfield. Winger Kyle Rowe is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged back-three as Logan Trotter reverts to full-back.
“On the whole I don’t see a huge difference in the personnel we have in the squad,” said Redpath. “I think we’re all very similar. This game is a great opportunity for the lads to push for the fourth match.”
In the opening two losses to Italy and Argentina the young Scots played a lot of good rugby but were noticeably outmuscled by bigger specimens. Tonight will be no less of a physical challenge and the odds favour England condemning the Scots to a third straight defeat but Redpath feels there have been positives to take so far away from cold, hard results. “The Italy game was probably the harder one to take. That was a massive opportunity for us,” he said.
“We were 23-10 up and lost a bit of composure. Then against Argentina they did well to get back to 15-13 and then disappointingly conceded a couple of tries late on. I look at all the stats of where we are and we’re actually performing at a higher level than two defeats would suggest, we’re just not taking some of the opportunities.
“We are top five in the tournament on most things, except for scoring tries. We just need a little bit of confidence about when and how to use the opportunities we’ve been creating. We’re ranked highest in terms of possession, also on turnovers conceded, carries we’re top four, same in line breaks and tackle breaks. But we’re not converting and that’s the hardest part for me.
“We’re on the right track we just need to learn to execute under a little more pressure than they’ve been under before. We are competitive.”