SCOTLAND UNDER-20S head coach Kenny Murray is hoping that the exposure that three-quarters of his squad have had to Super6 rugby during the last three months will stand them in good stead as the age-grade side attempt to bounce back from their recent Six Nations whitewash.
Murray named nine potential debutants in a 32-strong squad yesterday to compete in a ‘Summer Series’ tournament in Italy over the next four weeks, including two players – Boroughmuir back-row Liam McConnell and Gala winger/centre Kerr Johnston – who played for Scotland Under-18s in their Six Nations Festival campaign as recently as April.
The other new faces are South African back-row Euan Groenewald, Ealing Trailfinders full-back Gabe Jones, Glasgow Hawks/Boroughmuir Bears hooker Iain Carmichael, Edinburgh Accies/Southern Knights scrum-half Ben Afshar, Glasgow Hawks/Stirling County scrum-half Finlay Burgess, Currie Chieftains/Watsonians winger Ryan Daley and Gloucester Academy prop James Lascelles.
“Whilst the results in the Under-20 Six Nations were disappointing, we’ve been building on the positives that can be taken from that competition to take into this summer,” said Murray.
“To have had 75 percent of our squad getting regular game time during the Super6 Sprint Series, off the back of the Six Nations, has been fantastic for the players development. In training we can see that their intensity, skill level and desire to play a good attacking style of Scottish rugby is much higher.
“There are 11 members of this squad who are under-19 and to have two Scotland under-18 players stepping up to under-20 so soon after their competition in the spring is testament to the quality of players that they are. In both McConnell and Johnston’s positions, we’ve a depth of talented players so we’re keen to see how they can utilize both their physical attributes and skill sets in this next stage of age-grade rugby.”
The young Scots will kick-off their campaign at the Stadio di Monigo in Treviso against Wales this Saturday (kick off 4pm BST), then play Italy on Thursday 30th June (kick off 7pm BST), followed by Georgia on Wednesday 6th July (kick off 4pm BST).
With the competition having been split into two tiers, all these matches must be viewed as winnable, although recent history is not on Scotland’s side.
Scotland Under-20s beat both Italy and Wales during the 2020 Six Nations but have lost twice to each of those two teams during a 10-game losing streak since then.
The last time Scotland played Georgia at this level was in the pool stage of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in 2019 when the Eastern Europeans ran out 17-12 winners.
The final round of matches will be played on Tuesday 12th July with the each of the teams in Scotland’s pool playing the side which finishes in the same position in the other pool, meaning a showdown against either England, France, Ireland or South Africa. Regardless of which of those teams Murray’s boys end up facing, this game will be the real test of whether Scottish Rugby has started to make progress in the quest to make the age-grade side more competitive against the game’s top nations.
All of Scotland’s games will be available to watch live on YouTube, further details will be communicated when available.
Scotland U20 squad for Under-20 Summer Series
Forwards Gregor Hiddleston (GHA/Stirling County), Patrick Harrison* (Watsonians RFC/Edinburgh Rugby), Duncan Hood (Bath University), James Lascelles (Gloucester Rugby/Hartpury College), Ali Rogers (Glasgow Hawks/Ayrshire Bulls), Iain Carmichael (Glasgow Hawks/Boroughmuir Bears), Gregor Scougall (Currie Chieftains/Watsonians RFC), Callum Norrie (Stirling County/Strahallan School), Max Williamson* (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors), Jake Spurway (Stirling County /Durham University), Josh Taylor (Ealing Trailfinders), Rudi Brown* (Southern Knights/Edinburgh Rugby), Rhys Tait* (Boroughmuir Bears/Glasgow Warriors), Tim Brown (Glasgow Hawks/Ayrshire Bulls), Ollie Leatherbarrow (Exeter Chiefs), Liam McConnell (Boroughmuir Bears), Euan Groenewald (University of Pretoria (TUKS)), Matt Deehan (Newcastle Falcons).
Backs Murray Redpath (Southern Knights/Newcastle University), Finlay Burgess (Glasgow Hawks/Stirling County), Ben Afshar (Edinburgh Accies/Southern Knights), Christian Townsend* (Ayrshire Bulls/Glasgow Warriors), Euan Cunningham* (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Stirrat (GHA/Ayrshire Bulls), Ben Salmon (Stirling County), Duncan Munn* (Boroughmuir Bears), Thomas Glendinning (Glasgow Hawks/Ayrshire Bulls), Keiran Clark (Melrose/Southern Knights), Kerr Johnston (Gala RFC), Ryan Daley (Currie Chieftains/Watsonians RFC), Gabe Jones (Brunel University/Ealing Trailfinders), Ross McKnight* (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors).
*FOSROC Scottish Rugby Contracted Academy Player for 2021-2022 Season