This will be the third time that Ireland and Scotland have met at the IRB Junior World Championships. Both previous meetings have been in the play off for ninth place in the tournament, Ireland winning 39-12 in 2008 and 53-23 in 2010.
Ireland beat Scotland 15-0 in the Under 20s Six Nations Championship in Inverness earlier this year, including a try by Niall Annett, who captains the side on Saturday.
This match will decide who finishes third and fourth in Pool C after both sides lost their opening two matches against South Africa and England. Neither side has scored a point but Ireland are currently in third place above Scotland on points difference.
Ireland have made five changes to their starting line up from the team that lost 42-26 to South Africa, with all five having started in the opening match against England. Iain Henderson returns to the second row, Dominic Gallagher is recalled at flanker, Patrick Jackson starts at fly half, Luke Marshall plays at inside centre and Andrew Boyle comes back on the left wing.
Scotland have named exactly the same starting line up that lost 39-18 to England.
Tale of the tape.
Ireland are one month per man older than Scotland and there is very little to choose between the two forward units on height in the line out or on weight in the scrum.
The combined weight of the Ireland pack is 835 kg, which gives them a seven kg advantage over Scotland in the scrum.
Ireland’s heaviest man is tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong, who tips the scales at 115 kg (18st 2lb) and has a two kg advantage over his opposite number, Colin Phillips, who is Scotland’s heaviest player.
Scotland second row forward Robert McAlpine is the tallest man on the pitch at 200 cm (6ft 6ins) and stands just one cm above Ireland’s tallest player, Iain Henderson.
Ireland have five players in their starting line up with previous experience in the IRB Junior World Championships; hooker Niall Annett played in all five matches last year and scored tries against both Samoa and Scotland; number eight Jordi Murphy started two matches as did centre Brendan Macken and wing Andrew Boyle.
Andrew Conway, who has started on the wing in all three matches this year, played every match at full back last year and scored five tries, including a hat trick against Scotland and one in the defeat to England. He has added to that tally with Ireland’s only three tries in this year’s championship, moving him up to joint second on the all time list with eight tries.
Ireland have kicked more penalty goals than any other side with 46, including 10 in their opening two matches in 2011, which is four more than any other team.
Scotland have three players in the starting line up with previous experience in the Junior World Championships; prop Colin Phillips and lock forward Robert McAlpine each started one match and captain Duncan Weir played in four matches and kicked 46 points, including eight conversions from nine attempts.
Scotland came into this tournament having finished bottom of the 2010 Under 20 Six Nations Championships earlier this year, losing all five matches played and scoring just 23 points in total. Eight of the players in their starting line up appeared in all five of those defeats.
Scotland’s Mark Bennett is the third youngest player in the tournament at 18 years and scored one of their three tournament tries on his debut for the side against France.
It’s not quite such a big ask for Ireland’s youngsters but a lot will come down as to how they handle the subtle shift in pressure from underdogs to clear favourites. Ireland’s half backs and midfield parings have struggled in the confined space of the English an South African defences (made all the more claustrophobic by lazy refereeing) but if the forwards can generate some front foot ball then we could be in for a treat.
Ireland have punched above their weight in the scrums and should dominate against the Scot’s but they really need to get their lineout functioning in this match or Scotland’s captain Duncan Weir will control the game with his boot.
Ireland desperately need to win this one if they are to live up to their potential and this group of youngsters are too good and too experienced to let that pass by and that will be the deciding factor. I expect Ireland to pull clear towards the end of the game after a nervy enough opening first half.