Scotland captain Rhys Tait urged his side to take the game to Ireland on Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series Finals Day or face another crushing defeat in Treviso on Tuesday, writes Josh Graham in Treviso.
Scotland conceded eight tries in Round 3’s 55-17 defeat to Georgia which condemned Kenny Murray’s side to their 13th consecutive loss at this level and left them fourth in Pool B.
Back rower Tait admits that display lost his team respect both from onlookers and their opponents and is hoping his side can restore some pride in the jersey against the reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions.
The 20-year-old said: “I think it’s just trying to bounce back, obviously it was a tough one against Georgia but for a lot of us boys this is our last game in the Under-20s, so that’s a big motivator.
“I was saying to a lot of the boys it’s about trying to earn a wee bit of respect back from not only our fans but the other teams as well because I think we lost a bit of that against Georgia.
“The main thing for me is trying to keep our heads up and go at Ireland because if we don’t take the game to them, it’s going to be a repeat of last week.
“A lot of their boys are in full-time rugby environments. They’ve brought out a younger squad than the Six Nations but we are definitely not expecting anything less as they are a top quality outfit.
“We are just going to try and take the learnings from the last game into this one and try and put out the best performance that we can.”
Flanker Tait is hoping to sign off on his age-grade career with a win as Scotland bid not to be the only side without a victory during the Summer Series after Ireland got their account up and running with a 37-36 triumph over England last time out.
And Scotland’s No.6 believes the month-long stint in Italy has done wonders for his leadership ability despite the results.
He explained: “I think it’s definitely helped me a lot. At the start of the Six Nations I was pretty raw as a leader and letting my frustration get to me sometimes.
“I think I’ve learnt to get over that and just try to get behind the boys as much as I can and try to stay positive - Kenny’s help me a lot with that.
“Staying positive the whole time and getting around boys when maybe they need a bit of a kick up the a*** sometimes or a hand on their shoulder.
“The Summer Series has helped me a lot and something I can take into the rest of my career hopefully.”
Head coach Murray, who has been vocal about the need for his side to be conditioned better for international rugby, has made four changes for their final fixture with Exeter University No.8 Ollie Leatherbarrow returning to the starting line-up and hooker Gregor Hiddleston shifting to the openside flank.
Tait is relishing the chance to renew his burgeoning partnership with Leatherbarrow against a strong Irish back row featuring captain Reuben Crothers and stand-out No.8 Lorcan McLoughlin.
He said: “It’s a nice little partnership me and Ollie have got going on at the minute, so we are looking to take that into this game.
“With Gregor coming in, he’s got an unreal work-rate and he’s a real threat over the ball. He’s a modern-day hooker, a really good jackaller and works really hard, so I think he’s a really good asset to come into the back row.
“We’ve also got a really strong back row to come off the bench as well, so that will back us up in the latter stages of the game.”
However, Scotland will have to make do without fly-half Christian Townsend, son of senior head coach Gregor, after a scan revealed he has a small foot fracture with Euan Cunningham instead wearing No.10.