The last two caps of Carl Hogg’s five-Test Scotland career came in Argentina and the former back-rower is relishing a return to the South American country for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship next month.
The coach named a 28-man squad for the tournament yesterday a quarter of a century after he was part of a Scotland tour which ended in two Buenos Aires losses. Hogg was also in Argentina last summer as he had a stint as assistant forwards coach on the senior summer tour of the Americas.
Newcomers to the squad are tighthead prop Mak Wilson (Melrose), back-row Tom Marshall (Newcastle Falcons) and wing Lomond McPherson (Watsonians), while Marshall Sykes (Ayr) – who was involved in last year’s U20 group – is included after missing out on the recent Six Nations through injury.
Five members of the squad were involved in last season’s world championship, with props Euan McLaren (Ayr) and Murphy Walker (Stirling County), second-row Ewan Johnson (Racing 92), back-row Sykes and stand-off Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks) adding that experience.
Six Nations skipper Connor Boyle will continue in the captaincy role.
“I was capped in Argentina way back in 1994. Unfortunately we got beaten in both Tests in Buenos Aires while I was back last year with the Test team,” said Hogg, pictured.
“You know with Argentina the hospitality will be fantastic and it is a diverse country. It is a great opportunity for a young group of boys, but as with every tour it is about taking care of business first.”
The young Scots had a trying Six Nations campaign but showed great character to beat Wales 27-20 at Meggetland to register a win.
It doesn’t get any easier for them in Argentina with the first two pool games against the might of South Africa and New Zealand before a test against Georgia, who beat Bryan Redpath’s side in last summer’s ninth-place play-off in France. That saw Scotland drop from the high point of 2017 when John Dalziel masterminded a best-ever fifth-place finish in Georgia.
Former Worcester coach Hogg admits that those meetings with the Baby Boks and Baby Blacks is a real baptism of fire for his young charges.
“It is, there is no doubt we are in a very tough group,” he said. “I went and watched the South Africans live playing England in Coventry last week and they’re a big, physical group.
“We have to be smart and adapt game to game. We have a game plan that allows real clarity but also flexibility. If I go back to the Six Nations and that game against Wales, it shows what we are trying to achieve. We want to make good decisions with and without the ball and I thought we achieved that over the 80 minutes at Meggetland.
“We are going to have to do likewise against South Africa and again against New Zealand. We are going to have to be very smart in the way we are trying to play the game and what we are trying to do. That’s a real philosophy of mine that we are trying to push across as a coaching group in the Six Nations period and leading into this Junior World Cup.”
The Scots will prepare for the tournament with some time together at St Andrews then a week-long training camp in Washington DC, which will include a warm-up fixture against Old Glory DC, who the SRU have a minority stake in, on 27 May in the US capital. “That gives us an extra week in camp and really help us to develop that camp mentality and there is no doubt about it these blokes are really a tight knit group,” said Hogg.
“It is probably one of the tightest groups I have ever been involved with, but it is about developing that accountability within the group to take us to the next level.
“It will be a full-on game against Old Glory, all 28 players will get a chance in Washington and it is a great opportunity for us to get an extra week’s prep done.”
On the selection of his 28, which includes 16 forwards and 12 backs, Hogg added: “It was relatively straight forward. We obviously had the group that played during the Six Nations and I thought we made huge strides during that period. We certainly played very well against Wales that night at Meggetland.”
• SCOTLAND SQUAD: Forwards: Andrew Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks), Angus Fraser (Glasgow Hawks), Cristen Van Niekerk (Lions), Cameron Henderson (Stirling County), Connor Boyle (Watsonians), Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks), Euan McLaren (Ayr), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92), Jack Mann (Edinburgh Accies), Mak Wilson (Melrose), Marshall Sykes (Ayr), Murphy Walker (Stirling County), Ross Bundy (Stirling County), Teddy Leatherbarrow (Sale Sharks), Tom Marshall (Newcastle Falcons), Will Hurd (Cardiff Metropolitan University). Backs: Cameron Anderson (Wasps), Grant Hughes (Stirling County), Jack Blain (Heriot’s), Lomond McPherson (Watsonians), Ollie Smith (Ayr), Matt Davidson (London Scottish), Murray Scott (Watsonians), Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol Bears), Roan Frostwick (Currie Chieftains), Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros), Rory McMichael (Heriot’s), Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks).