Rugby: Rotation time for the Kiwi juniors

By Campbell Burnes

Simon Hickey and Tevita Li only players to survive purge after disappointing loss to South Africa.

Kyle Harris contests the lineoutagainst South Africa last week. Photo / Getty Images
Kyle Harris contests the lineoutagainst South Africa last week. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand have made no fewer than 13 changes as they look to sweep aside Scotland and somehow scrape into the JWC semifinals.

That will not make the job easier for Scotland coach's Sean Lineen, who will have no footage of this combination in action, but he will have identified the unerring goalkicking of Simon Hickey and the deadly finishing of Tevita Li, the only two players retained, as danger areas. The balance of Chris Boyd's squad all get a run. Even if New Zealand know their fate by kickoff, one would assume there will be a more fluid display, weather permitting, than we saw in the 24-33 defeat to South Africa on Friday night.

The whole New Zealand pack has been rotated, and this will be a prime chance for men such as hooker James O'Reilly, lock Josh Dickson and flankers Kyle Harris and Mitch Jacobson to further their claims for the playoff rounds. Otago halfback Josh Renton gets his first start, and after appearing on the wing against Samoa, the exciting and elusive TJ Faiane, a schoolboy star, suits up in his preferred centre position. Richie Mo'unga replaces Damian McKenzie at fullback.

Lineen has made 10 changes, reasoning that some of his youngsters cannot back up four days after a bruising encounter. He knows his charges will have their work cut out in their first JWC meeting with New Zealand. He says they have a very good scrum, so there is little surprise that they will try to target New Zealand there. Incredibly, Scotland have landed just one goal in two games, and more accuracy off the tee might have carried it to a win or draw over Samoa. Both sides scored three tries apiece.

Blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie, just 17, was the standout for Scotland in the 18-27 defeat on Friday in Pukekohe, but Tommy Spinks and fellow loosie Magnus Bradbury are also raw-boned, industrious players. Spinks will come off the bench tonight.

"We need to be a bit quicker in the things we do," said Lineen. "New Zealand rugby operates at a higher level and everything they do is a little bit quicker, so we have to be sharper, take our chances and put New Zealand under pressure. We've got to make sure it's really difficult for them but also play some rugby."

Some inclement weather will also help Scotland. Lineen was not, however, banking on New Zealand being as flaky at set-piece as they were against South Africa, nor was he anticipating a deflated New Zealand should they be out of the semifinals reckoning by kickoff.

"Whatever the case may be, they'll be out to prove a point. We'll have to have our defensive systems in place and work incredibly hard and at a level of speed and alignment in attack and defence that we haven't reached yet."

The Scotland squad was given tips on how to do the haka yesterday. Will that help against a side with all the pressure on their shoulders?

- NZ Herald

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