Shade Munro has challenged his Scotland A charges to complete a home and away double over England Saxons this Friday (kick-off 8pm) and set the tone for the nation’s RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Last season Scotland’s back-up senior side ran in four unanswered tries to win 35-0 against their English counterparts at Netherdale, and now prepare for a return fixture at Kingston Park, the home of Newcastle Falcons.
Munro said: “This is the first senior representative match of 2013 for a Scottish side and, as an opener for the RBS 6 Nations Championship, we have the opportunity to put a marker down and show what Scottish rugby is about, while those selected have an excellent chance to show why they deserve to feature in the remainder of the RBS 6 Nations campaign.
“However, with just one game for the Scotland A team this season, these elements are really an aside to our main objective. Everything this team has done has been designed to put us in a position to beat the England Saxons at Newcastle.”
It’s a good looking team on paper, although mirroring the senior side there is a distinct lack of a specialist openside (Roddy Grant, anyone) in the starting XV or on the bench. The pack looks mobile, and there are good strike runners all through the backs including the return of Nikki Walker. Although I will confess to knowing little of Saracens’ Duncan Taylor.
Walker’s inclusion adds experience to the back-line, which is completed by uncapped Edinburgh Rugby full-back Greig Tonks and 2012 Melrose Sevens winner Taylor, both of whom qualify for Scotland through Scottish parents.
Scotland A team to play England Saxons at Kingston Park
Friday 1 February (kick-off 8pm) – live on SkySports
15 Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby), 14 Duncan Taylor (Saracens), 13 Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors) – 3 caps, 12 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), 11 Nikki Walker (Worcester Warriors) – 24 caps, 10 Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby) – 1 cap, 9 Sean Kennedy (Glasgow Warriors); 1 Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks) – 24 caps, 2 Steven Lawrie (Edinburgh Rugby), 3 Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap, 4 Tom Ryder (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps, 5 Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), 6 Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby), 7 Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) – 20 caps, 8 Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN
16 Alun Walker (Edinburgh Rugby), 17 Grant Shiells (Newcastle Falcons), 18 Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), 19 Robert McAlpine (Edinburgh Rugby), 20 James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors), 21 Jamie Stevenson (London Scottish), 22 Ben Cairns (Edinburgh Rugby) – 7 caps, 23 Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby)
Duncan Taylor (23)
Height – 6ft 3in (1.89m)
Weight – 15st 7lb (100kg)
Born in Northampton Duncan Taylor is a strong running centre who impressed the Saracens coaches with his performances for Bedford Blues in the Championship in the 2010/11 season.
Before his arrival at Saracens, he enjoyed a peripatetic upbringing due to his parents’ employment, which saw his begin his schooling and rugby at Davidson Mains Primary School in Edinburgh. He then attended Olney Middle School, playing for Olney RFC on the first of two occasions either side of a spell at Davidson School in Sydney, Australia (playing for Garigal RFC) before returning to Ousedale School in Newport Pagnell.
He then signed for Bedford RFC aged 17 where he spent two years with the club’s Colts and two seasons with first team, during which they reached the Championship playoff semi-finals in both seasons.
He joined Saracens as a dual registered player at the start of the 2011/12 season before winning the Melrose Sevens title with the Premiership outfit the following summer and making over 20 appearances for the Premiership club.
Duncan qualifies for Scotland through his Scottish parents Lindsay and Colin who are from Stranraer and Glasgow respectively.
Jamie Stevenson (20)
Scrum-half (London Scottish)
Height – 1.85 m (6′ 1″)
Weight – 84 kg (13st 5lb)
Born in London, former Scotland age-grade scrum-half Jamie Stevenson represented Kent under-16 and 18, London Irish under-18 and 19, and Scotland under-18 and 20 through Scottish Rugby’s exile programme.
Despite a strong age-grade representative career, he began playing rugby as a hooker before switching to the back-row, before finally resting at scrum-half.
As a senior player he recently made a big impact in his club’s British & Irish Cup clash against Gala, registering a hat-trick in the pool clash against the Maroons. Stevenson qualifies for Scotland through his father, Neil, who hails from Cardross.
Meanwhile Glasgow Warriors and Currie lock, Jonny Gray will captain the Scotland under-20 team for their opening 6 Nations clash against the Auld Enemy on Friday (1 February, Brickfields Recreation Ground (Plymouth Albion), kick-off 5.45pm).
Gray, who will lead the team for the first time, will be joined by elite development players Rory Hughes (winger, Scotland 7s), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (scrum-half, Edinburgh Rugby) and Adam Ashe (back-row, Glasgow Warriors) in the starting line-up.
From the Scottish club game Keith Buchan (Boroughmuir) is at full-back, his club team-mate Damian Hoyland slots in on the wing; from Gala Chris Auld (centre) and Russell Anderson (hooker) win starts; Ayr’s D’arcy Rae is at tight-head prop and Jamie Bhatti is at loose-head and is joined by his Stirling County team-mate Ruaridh Leishman in the back-row.
Completing the starting team are exiles Adam Sinclair (Perpignan) at lock, Will Bordill (Sale Sharks) in the back-row and Glasgow Warriors and Clermont Auvergne centre Mark Bennett.
Head coach, Sean Lineen, said: “It’s been a really exciting process working with a group of young players who are willing to learn and who want to do something special in this year’s 6 Nations and IRB Junior World Championship.
“We’ve had four camps and every single player has worked hard, so we’re going down there to give an outstanding performance and there are players who have missed out this time around who are very disappointed.
“However, I’ve been really impressed with the coaching group and the players. We’re really looking forward, with huge anticipation to Friday, so we can see what we can do and hopefully surprise people. England are always a very good team and they will be a good measure of where we are.”
Edinburgh Accies full-back Ruaridh Young will travel as 24th man.
The Scotland under-20 team to play England under-20 on Friday (1 February) at the Brickfields Recreation Ground in Plymouth v England under-20 is as follows:
15 Keith Buchan (Boroughmuir), 14 Damian Hoyland (Boroughmuir), 13 Chris Auld (Gala), 12 Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors / Clermont Auvergne), 11 Rory Hughes (Scotland 7s / Stirling County), 10 Tommy Allan (Western Province)
9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby / Heriot’s); 1 Jamie Bhatti (Stirling County), 2 Russell Anderson (Gala), 3 D’arcy Rae (Ayr), 4 Jonny Gray (captain) (Glasgow Warriors / Currie), 5 Adam Sinclair (Perpignan), 6 Ruaridh Leishman (Stirling County), 7 Will Bordill (Sale Sharks), 8 Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors / Stirling County)
16 Calum Black (Edinburgh Accies), 17 Shawn Muir (Hawick), 18 Phil Cringle (Edinburgh Rugby / Stewart’s-Melville FP), 19 Cameron Turner (Aberdeen Grammar), 20 Tommy Spinks (London Scottish), 21 Ali Price (Bedford Blues), 22 Alex Hagart (Aberdeen Grammar), 23 Robbie Fergusson (Ayr)