Scotland coach John Dalziel is confident his side can rise to the occasion when they face hosts England in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship tonight despite being forced into fielding a much-changed starting XV.
Four days after the momentous 15-10 win over Australia in Salford which got the young Scots’ Pool B campaign off to a flier, Dalziel has named a team containing a number of personnel and positional changes for this evening’s mouth-watering showdown with the auld enemy at Manchester City Academy Stadium.
Stand-off Adam Hastings and flanker Lewis Wynne have both failed to come through the Head Injury Assessment protocols and will miss the game, in addition to the losses of wing Darcy Graham (concussion) and centre Rory Hutchinson (ankle) who were ruled out of the rest of the tournament yesterday.
Full international prop Zander Fagerson is rested for the game and Dalziel has moved Edinburgh pro Blair Kinghorn from full-back to replace Hastings at stand-off, with Currie’s Ben Robbins taking the No 15 jersey.
Dalziel explained: “Now that Blair is in the pro environment, playing 15 is part of his development into that 10 role at that level. But he has been a 10 his whole life.
“He played against England for the under 18s last year and had a great performance when they won in Newcastle. He is a very, very accomplished player and he has a great armoury of kicks. He is a very clever player.
“In the Australia game he didn’t really get to impose himself very much, so I’m happy I can bring him into the frontline. He is very versatile and he’s comfortable in that position.”
Tom Galbraith will form a new midfield partnership with George Taylor of Melrose, while Robbie Nairn of Harlequins comes in on the right wing in place of Tuesday’s try hero Graham.
Callum Sheldon replaces Fagerson, who also scored a try in the Australia win, at tighthead, while Callum Hunter-Hill replaces Andrew Davidson at lock alongside skipper Scott Cummings.
In a re-jigged back-row, Jamie Ritchie moves from No 8 to openside and is flanked by Scott Burnside of Boroughmuir and Ally Miller of Melrose.
Despite the disruption, Dalziel has faith in his charges and said that there was always going to be changes made for the second game.
“This is international rugby with a four-day turnaround,” he said. “We’ve got four games to play in the tournament in the next 16 days, so it’s about who is ready to play, who has been kept back deliberately to be fresh for the second game.
“A couple of injuries have forced decisions but the team is largely what we thought it would be for game two in terms of what we want to do. We are delighted with the team that we can put out.”
On the resting of Glasgow tighthead Fagerson, Dalziel said: “Zander is being managed due to his load throughout the season. It was always the plan that he would be available for two of the first three games. But we’ve got a lot of strength there; Callum Sheldon started four of the five games in the Six Nations.”
The loss on Thursday of Graham, who lit up the opening day of the competition with his wonder try against the Aussies, and experienced Northampton centre Hutchinson are crushing blows but Dalziel is happy with the replacements at his disposal.
“Robbie Nairn played every game in the Six Nations and he is in his second World Cup,” said the coach. “He only just came back from his ankle injury [picked up in the last game of the Six Nations against Ireland] before the first game, so it was always planned that he would get his run-out in the second game. Tom [Galbraith] and George [Taylor] are clubmates at Melrose and very comfortable alongside each other. England have a lot of strength in midfield and we need some real physicality in there. We have picked two very good defenders to provide that.”
Dalziel and his squad enjoyed a trip to the National Football Museum yesterday before the Captain’s Run at Manchester City’s state of the art academy stadium.
“I think it will be a huge occasion,” said Dalziel of the match which will be televised on Sky Sports. “I back this group. Yes, we’ve got a couple of injuries now, but I’m confident we’ve got the right team and that these guys will step up to the mark. They are fresh because we are bringing six or seven guys in.”
England, who won this event in 2013 and 2014 and were runners-up last year, will be out to avenge the 24-6 defeat they suffered to the Scots at Broadwood in the Six Nations.
Coach Martin Haag brings back Yorkshire Carnegie hooker Jack Walker to captain the side, while Northampton starlet Harry Mallinder switches to No 10 from inside centre following an injury to Theo Brophy Clews in the opening 48-10 win against Italy.