Scotland U20s coach Kenny Murray warns against complacency ahead of Georgia tie

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Scotland U20s coach Kenny Murray warns against complacency ahead of Georgia tie
Scotland U20s coach Kenny Murray warns against complacency ahead of Georgia tie

GIVEN that the opposition is also still winless so far in this Six Nations Summer Series, tonight’s final pool match against Georgia looks like Scotland Under-20s’ best chance yet of avoiding a whitewash – but head coach Kenny Murray has warned that it would be a big mistake to underestimate the threat posed by the Eastern Europeans.

Georgia have come out on top in both the previous matches these nations have played at this level, winning 17-12 against a Scotland side containing current senior squad members Ewan Ashman, Ross Thompson and Murphy Walker during the 2019 Junior World Championship, and 39-31 against a side featuring Rory Darge and Kyle Rowe as well as Thompson and Murphy at the 2018 tournament.

They have also been more competitive than Scotland in their two previous matches this summer against Italy and Wales, picking up a losing bonus-point in the latter of those games which has left Murray’s side rooted to the foot of Pool B. Scotland have a points differential of -50 as opposed to -23 for Georgia.

“We’re looking forward to it, we want to win against Georgia and get ourselves in that third-place spot in the pool, but we know it is going to be tough,” said Murray. “If they [Georgia] had won that line-out in the last play of their game last week, they would probably have beaten Wales, so they’ll feel they have a point to prove.

“They have some big, physical men in the pack who we will need to front-up against, and we saw with the first two tries they scored against Italy that they come alive from turnover ball, so we have been looking at that as well,” he added. “We know we are going to have to be on our toes because they’ve got some guys who will hurt you if you switch off in defence against them.

“The thing people don’t get sometimes is that they’ve now got a 10-strong semi-pro league, so they’ve really taken rugby forward in their country and we’re going to have to be at our very best to compete with them.”

Murray has made four changes to the starting XV he sent out against Italy last Thursday, with two of his most experienced forwards in hooker Patrick Harrison and No 8 Ollie Leatherbarrow dropping to the bench.

“Both have missed a fair bit of rugby recently so neither is conditioned to play 80 minutes at the moment, and we also feel that bringing them on when Georgia are maybe beginning to tire can really have a big impact to help us finish off the game,” the coach explained.

“Also, Gregor Hiddleston has played really well for us at hooker when he’s had a chance so he’s there on merit, and Tim Brown is raring to go in the back-row after missing the last match with a leg knock.”

Behind the scrum, Christian Townsend has been rotated back in at stand-off, while Keiran Clark returns at full-back with Gabe Jones moving to the wing and Ross McKnight misses out on selection to the match-day squad.

It is a tough time to be a Scotland Under-20s player with the side caught in a 12-match losing streak, but Murray insisted that the players have stayed positive.

“It is always tough after a loss, but I think we have an environment and culture within the group that we keep working hard together,” said Murray. “One of our themes in this tournament is winning every day by looking at how we improve and get better every day.

“The boys have been really good with the stuff off the park in terms of reviewing their own games, so they’re driving it themselves and they’ve been very good at not letting their heads go down.

“In that Italy game last week, we were 15-7 down after 65 minutes so we were in the contest, and it was just that last 15 minutes when we made some changes and began to struggle a bit coping with their line-out drive, so we don’t feel like we are far away.”

Scotland Under-20s (v Georgia Under-20s in the Six Nations U20 Summer Series, Stadio di Monigo, Treviso, Wednesday @ 4pm British time): K Clark (Southern Knights); K Johnston (Gala), D Munn (Boroughmuir Bears), A Stirrat (GHA/Ayrshire Bulls), G Jones (Brunel University/Ealing Trailfinders); C Townsend (Ayrshire Bulls/Glasgow Warriors), B Afshar (Edinburgh Accies/Southern Knights/Newcastle University); I Carmichael (Glasgow Hawks/Boroughmuir Bears), G Hiddleston (GHA/Stirling County), G Scougall (Currie Chieftains/Watsonians), J Taylor (Ealing Trailfinders), M Williamson (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors), L McConnell (Boroughmuir Bears), T Brown (Glasgow Hawks/Ayrshire Bulls), R Tait (Boroughmuir Bears/Glasgow Warriors, captain).

Substitutes: P Harrison (Watsonians/Edinburgh Rugby), A Rogers (Glasgow Hawks/Ayrshire Bulls), C Norrie (Strathallan School/Stirling County), J Spurway (Stirling County/Durham University), O Leatherbarrow (Exeter Chiefs), M Redpath (Southern Knights/Newcastle University), E Cunningham (Stirling County), B Salmon (Stirling County), M Deehan (Newcastle Falcons), E Groenewald (University of Pretoria), R Daley (Currie Chieftains/Watsonians).

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