THE strength in depth within Scotland’s young player group is about to be tested almost to its breaking point. After losing 43-19 to South Africa in the opening game of the age-grade World Championship in Argentina, head coach Carl Hogg has made 12 changes to the team to take on another of the tournament favourites, New Zealand.

With just three players keeping their places, and one of those, Rory McMichael, being asked to switch from wing to centre, the new-look side will have their work cut out to defeat the junior All Blacks who looked a slick and well-drilled attacking force in their opening-day win over Georgia.

Realistically, Hogg did not have much choice. The South Africa match was only four days ago and was a brutally physical encounter where the Scots did well in line-out and maul but suffered badly in the scrum.

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

The changes mean going into the game without a number of the players who have been the core of the Under 20s side for most of the season, including half-backs Roan Frostwick and Ross Thomson, who are replaced by Murray Scott from Watsonians and Nathan Chamberlain from Bristol, who also takes over the captaincy with usual skipper Connor Boyle also rested.

“Our set-piece was good against South Africa,” Hogg said. “The line-out and drive were particularly good and caused them issues. That is something we will look to get into this game.

“New Zealand are potentially not as strong as South Africa around scrum time, but it is a new front-row with [Andrew] Nimmo, [Rory] Jackson and [Will] Hurd in there. It’ll be a challenge, but I think the game will take on a slightly different context. It is a great learning curve for these players.

“We are not naive, we know we are probably not favourites, 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 New Zealand are favourites and probably have more resources at this level but we will look to turn the tables.”

Scotland U20 (v New Zealand U20): O Smith (Ayr); L MacPherson (Watsonians), R McMichael (Heriot’s), R McCallum (Complutense Cisneros), J Blain (Heriot’s); N Chamberlain (C) (Bristol Bears), M Scott (Watsonians); A Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks), R Jackson (Edinburgh Academy), W Hurd (Cardiff Metropolitan University), E Johnson (Racing 92), R Bundy (Stirling County), J Hill (Durham University), T Leatherbarrow (Sale Sharks), K van Niekerk (Lions). Replacements: E Ashman (Sale Sharks), M Walker (Stirling County), E McLaren (Ayr), M Wilson (Melrose), C Henderson (Stirling County), M Sykes (Ayr), T Marshall (Newcastle Falcons), R Frostwick (Currie Chieftains), C Boyle (Watsonians), R Thompson (Glasgow Hawks), G Hughes (Stirling County), C Anderson (Wasps), M Davidson (London Scottish).