Scotland have named their side for their opening game of the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championships, held in Georgia.
The task could not be tougher for the young Scots though, as they face multiple winners New Zealand, a side that Scotland have only ever beaten once, at any level of rugby.
There is hope for this exciting Scottish side though, for that one victory for Scotland over a New Zealand side came only a little over a week ago at Twickenham Stadium as Scotland 7s beat their New Zealand counterparts en route to winning the London 7s title.
Tomorrow’s 10am (BST) kick off at the AIA Arena in Kutaisi will kick off the action in Pool B, which also includes Italy and Ireland.
Scotland are led by Glasgow second row Callum Hunter-Hill, who is joined in the second row by Gloucester lock Alex Craig. Craig is one of three Scottish Exiles in the starting fifteen, with Bishop Burton College’s George Thornton at loosehead and Wasps’ Connor Eastgate starting at fly half.
Head Coach John Dalziel has picked a further three Scottish Exiles on the bench, Worcester Warriors’ former Warwick School star Tom Dodd covers the back row, with Newcastle Falcons’ Ruaridh Dawson covering scrum half, and Robbie Nairn of Harlequins covering the back three.
It is in the back three that Scotland are perhaps most exciting. Edinburgh pair Blair Kinghorn and Darcy Graham start at full back and right wing respectively and are about as close as can be to a sure bet for future honours, while Ross McCann starts on the left wing.
Lewis Berg and Stafford McDowall are the centre combination, while joining Eastgate in the half backs is scrum half Charlie Shiel.
Up front Fraser Renwick and Fergus Bradbury join Thornton in front of the second row pair of Craig and Hunter-Hill, while behind them is another real star of the future in Matt Fagerson, who starts at number 8. Luke Crosbie starts on the blindside flank, with debutant Thomas Gordon at openside.
There is another debutant on the bench in prop Ross Dunbar, who is joined by front row replacements Robbie Smith and Adam Nicol, with Bruce Flockhart covering the second row, and Dodd the back row. Joining Dawson and Nairn in covering the backs is young fly half Josh Henderson, who enjoyed a fine U20 Six Nations campaign.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s opener, Dalziel said:
“We’ve named an exciting side for the tournament opener and we’re hoping they’ll go out and express themselves from the offset. We’ll look to play an attacking and fluid style of rugby, but there’s also going to be a need for great physicality in the contact if we are to win and retain possession for long periods of the match.”
“There’s no playing down the enormity of the challenge we face in going up against New Zealand first-up. A good core of their squad will have played to a very high standard domestically and they’re likely to bring that experience into tomorrow’s game.”
“They’ll play with real tempo, great physicality and an astuteness across all aspects of the game. We need to front-up physically and mentally to compete. The boys face a big task, but there’s a good vibe around camp and we’re all looking forward to getting things underway with a strong performance.”
Scotland U20 v New Zealand U20 – World Rugby U20 Championships, Wednesday 31st May, 10am kick off (BST), AIA Arena, Kutaisi – Live on www.worldrugby.org
Scotland U20 XV:
15 Blair Kinghorn
14 Darcy Graham
13 Lewis Berg
12 Stafford McDowall
11 Ross McCann
10 Connor Eastgate
9 Charlie Shiel
1 George Thornton
2 Fraser Renwick
3 Fergus Bradbury
4 Alex Craig
5 Callum Hunter-Hill (captain)
6 Luke Crosbie
7 Thomas Gordon
8 Matt Fagerson
Replacements: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Ross Dunbar, 18 Adam Nicol, 19 Bruce Flockhart, 20 Tom Dodd, 21 Ruaridh Dawson, 22 Josh Henderson, 23 Robbie Nairn.
Scotland Fixtures at the World Rugby U20 Championships:
Wednesday 31st May – New Zealand, Kutaisi Stadium, Kutaisi (KO 1pm/10am BST)
Sunday 4th June – Ireland, Kutaisi Stadium, Kutaisi (KO 1pm/10am BST)
Thursday 8th June – Italy, Kutaisi Stadium, Kutaisi (KO 1pm/10am BST)
Tuesday 13th June – Semi-finals and knock-out matches
Sunday 18th June – Final and knock-out matches
|2017 World Rugby U20 Championships Pools|
|Pool A||Pool B||Pool C|