Scotland international and former Scotland Under-19 captain Allister Hogg has backed current Scotland Under-19 captain Fraser McKenzie during the IRB Under-19 World Championship in Belfast, tipping the young back row as a serious contender in the future of Scottish rugby.Scotland international and former Scotland Under-19 captain Allister Hogg has backed current Scotland Under-19 captain Fraser McKenzie during the IRB Under-19 World Championship in Belfast, tipping the young back row as a serious contender in the future of Scottish rugby.
McKenzie and his side are currently preparing for the fourth game in the tournament tomorrow night (Tuesday 17 April) as they line up against Fiji for the 10th v 11th place play-off, having faced the islanders last Friday in the pools when they lost 25-23 at Shawâ€™s Bridge.
The defeat added to agonisingly close encounters with France and Ireland in the first two pool matches, losing 11-6 and 13-12 respectively. Tomorrowâ€™s match takes place at Belfast Harlequinsâ€™ ground at 5.30pm.
Scotland Under-19 have been much more competitive in contrast to last yearâ€™s tournament in Dubai when they lost 78-3 to Australia and 35-5 to Wales in the pool matches.
Hogg, who has been capped 33 times for Scotland in the back row and captained Edinburgh Rugby at the weekend, has been working with McKenzie during Edinburgh training sessions and admits he is very impressed with the young man from Dunfermline.
He said: â€œHeâ€™s a big lad for his age and aggressive at the contact area, which is really important for a back row player. He seems to like getting stuck in and he has fitted in well at Edinburgh.
â€œHeâ€™s eager to learn and asks the right questions while also taking on board feedback so that he can continue to improve and learn from the players around him. Fraser is a likable guy and Iâ€™m sure thatâ€™ll make him an excellent captain for the under-19s during the tournament. Respect is huge for a captain and Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll have that from his squad,â€ he added.
Hogg has been keeping an eye on the young Scotland squadâ€™s progress and said of their campaign so far: â€œThe team pushed France all the way and were unlucky against Ireland and Fiji. They need to put those games behind them and finish well this week. Theyâ€™ll be frustrated but they need to look ahead.â€
Hogg knows how rigorous this tournament is having captained Scotlandâ€™s side back in 2002 when they finished fifth at the IRB/FIRA Junior World Championship in Italy, beating Wales and England on the way.
He said: â€œItâ€™s a tough tournament because the games come quickly. The boys will be pretty tired because itâ€™s so physically demanding but itâ€™s a massive experience for them and Iâ€™m sure they will come out inspired.â€
Coach Peter Wright has made five changes to the side that lost to Fiji as in the backs Ruairidh Bonner comes in for Stephen McColl at inside centre and Matthew Heeks replaces Ross Samson at scrum-half.
In the forwards Lewis Niven comes in at prop for Gary Strain, Steven Burton replaces Kevin Bryce at openside flanker and Alexandre Wukovits returns at No 8 for Craig Simmonds.
Wright said: â€œThis is no reflection on how the players have played but some are a bit tired now and we have options with a 26-man squad so weâ€™re using them. We lacked a bit of intensity against Fiji on Friday so these fresh faces should bring that back.
â€œWe need to cut out the mistakes that have crept in and do the basics right. We know what theyâ€™ll look to do so we need to put them under pressure and keep our organisation,â€ he added.
IRB Under 19 World Championship rules permit teams to bench all 11 remaining squad members and make up to seven substitutions during the match.
SCOTLAND UNDER-19 TEAM TO PLAY FIJI
15 Murray Allan (Stewart's Melville FP)
14 Lee Jones (Selkirk)
13 Chris Kinloch (Fettes College/Edinburgh Academicals and ESIS)*
12 Ruairidh Bonner (Edinburgh Academicals)
11 Tom Bury (Edinburgh Academicals)
10 Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors, Cartha Queens Park and WSIS)*
9 Matthew Heeks (London Scottish and St Maryâ€™s Twickenham)
1 Lewis Niven (Edinburgh Academicals/Trinity Academicals)
2 Adrian Duncan (Stewart's Melville FP)
3 Joe Stafford (Glasgow Warriors, Hillhead/Jordanhill and WSIS)*
4 Neale Patrick (Dunfermline)
5 Josh Brown (Bristol/Filton College)
6 Fraser McKenzie (Edinburgh Rugby, Dunfermline and TFIS)* CAPTAIN
7 Steven Burton (Currie)
8 Alexandre Wukovits (BÃ¨gles Bordeaux)
FORWARDS: Kevin Bryce (Glasgow Warriors, Stirling County and CIS)*, Craig Charters (Hawick), Angus Dixon (Aberdeen GSFP), Ralph McInally (Perthshire), Craig Simmonds (Dalziel), Gary Strain (Dalziel)
BACKS: Harry Duthie (Harrogate), James Murray (Edinburgh Academicals), Redha Guedroudj (Aberdeen GSFP), Stephen McColl (Dunfermline and TFIS)*, Ross Samson (Newcastle Falcons/Tynedale)
* = National Academy player
ESIS â€“ East of Scotland Institute of Sport
TFIS â€“ Tayside & Fife Institute of Sport
WSIS â€“ West of Scotland Institute of Sport
CIS â€“ Central Institute of Sport