Underdogs Scotland sense an opportunity against New Zealand

Nathan Chamberlain will captain a much-changed Scotland Under-20 side against New Zealand. Picture: SNS/SRU
Nathan Chamberlain will captain a much-changed Scotland Under-20 side against New Zealand. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Scotland Under-20 coach Carl Hogg has rung the changes for today’s second junior World Cup clash with New Zealand in Rosario, Argentina.

Coming close after a 43-19 loss to South Africa in their Pool C opener, the test of facing the Baby Blacks is as tough as it gets for the young Scots and the coach said that a freshen-up in selection was always on the cards.

“The matches take place in a very short period of time, so right from the outset we planned how to use our resources in the best possible way,” said the coach. “We’ve got this game on Saturday having played on Tuesday, then a game the following Wednesday [against Georgia] then the Monday after that. So there’s a lot of high-intensity rugby over a very short period.”

The starting line-up includes only three players from the South Africa game as Ewan Johnson (Racing 92) and Heriot’s duo Rory McMichael – who switches from wing to outside centre – and Jack Blain all keep their spots in the much-changed XV.

The changes include back-row Jack Hill (Durham University) making his Scotland U20 debut after being called into the age-grade side’s training squad last month. Wing Lomond MacPherson (Watsonians), stand-off Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol Bears), who will captain the side, scrum-half Murray Scott (Watsonians), props Andrew Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks) and Will Hurd (Cardiff Metropolitan Univeristy), hooker Rory Jackson (Edinburgh Academy) and back-row Teddy Leatherbarrow (Sale Sharks) all make their first start for the age-grade side.

Despite the big change in personnel, Hogg is hoping that his young charges take the positives from that South Africa game, in which the Scots were only three points behind on the hour mark.

“In general I thought our set-piece was good against South Africa, the lineout and drive were particularly good and caused them issues and that is something we will look to get into the game on Saturday,” said the coach.

“I think New Zealand are potentially not as strong as South Africa around scrum time, but it is a new front-row with Nimmo, Jackson and Hurd in there so it’ll be a challenge, but I think the game will take on a slightly different context. New Zealand like to play with ball in hand, they want to hit half-field contact and then ship the ball left and right.

“So we have to make sure we are communicating and scanning in defence and I think it will be a different challenge.

“It is a great learning curve for these players. On a Tuesday you are playing against a big, physical, direct opposition like South Africa and then you are playing New Zealand, which will be different.”

Hogg said he has been pleased with the response to an opening defeat which contained a lot of excellent performances before the game ran away in the closing 
stages.

“It is a challenge about getting the right balance between training time on the field and resting up,” continued Hogg. “A four-day turnaround is unusual and a challenge.

“I think this presents a great opportunity, though. We are not naive, we know that we are probably not favourites going into the contest, but Scottish sport is littered with events where the teams have overcome the odds and that is what we are looking to do.

“There is no doubt that New Zealand are favourites and probably have more resources at this level, but we will look to turn the tables.”

l Edinburgh have announced pre-season games against London Scottish and Ospreys, both at BT Murrayfield. The London Scottish clash is on Saturday 31 August before Ospreys visit a fortnight later on Saturday 14 September. Both will be included in the 2019-20 season ticket.