Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


World Rugby U20s Championship: Scotland squad

Scotland U20s v Australia U20
Scotland U20s v Australia U20 - pic courtesy World Rugby

Yesterday we looked at the World Rugby U20 Championship tournament as a whole and now here’s a more detailed rundown on Scotland and the players who will need to perform to ensure success.

Scotland coach John Dalziel has largely gone with the group of players that finished 5th in this season’s Six Nations. There are just a handful of changes from those who played in February and March:

  • Patrick Anderson, Ross Dunbar, Archie Erskine and Thomas Gordon could make their debuts at this level.
  • Ruaridh Dawson and Blair Kinghorn are recalled to the squad.

The Squad

Fergus Bradbury (Stirling County), Ross Dunbar (Boroughmuir), Adam Nicol (Stirling County), George Thornton (Bishop Burton College), Daniel Winning (Boroughmuir)

Fraser Renwick (Hawick), Robbie Smith (Ayr)

Hamish Bain (Currie), Callum Hunter-Hill (Edinburgh Rugby), Alex Craig (Gloucester Academy)

Back Rows
Luke Crosbie (Currie), Tom Dodd (Worcester Academy), Archie Erskine (Newcastle Academy), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks), Bruce Flockhart (Glasgow Hawks), Thomas Gordon (Currie)

Scrum Halves
Ruaridh Dawson (Newcastle Falcons), Charlie Shiel (Currie), Andrew Simmers (Heriot’s)

Stand Offs
Connor Eastgate (Wasps Academy), Josh Henderson (Glasgow Hawks)

Lewis Berg (Gala), Stafford McDowell (Ayr)

Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Ross McCann (Melrose), Robbie Nairn (Ayr)

Full backs
Patrick Anderson (Melrose), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby)


  • The current squad have 127 previous caps for the under 20s (last year’s squad – 214), averaging 4 (last year – 9) previous appearances each in the forwards and 5 (last year – 6) in the backs.
  • 6 players were also selected in the original squad for the last u20s World Championship – the lowest number of returning players since 2012. (Although in addition Alex Craig was drafted in before the 2016 tournament kicked off and Adam Nicol and Fraser Renwick were both late injury replacements.)
  • Blair Kinghorn and Robbie Nairn will be competing in the tournament for the third successive year. This is a feat only previously achieved by 5 young Scots (Mark Bennett, Zander Fagerson, Jamie Farndale, Rory Hutchinson and Jamie Ritchie).
  • 5 of the Scots have already made their professional debut in one of Europe’s top leagues – the same as last year’s squad, which was the most of any group the national U20 side had taken to the tournament.
  • 4 players – Ruaridh Dawson (Newcastle), Darcy Graham, Callum Hunter-Hill and Blair Kinghorn (all Edinburgh) – have already signed full-time professional contracts for next season.
  • A further 16 players will be at the top level Stage 3 of the Scottish Rugby Academy with 7 aligned to (and training with) Glasgow Warriors and 9 to Edinburgh.

Five to follow

As mentioned above a number of the young Scots in the squad have already made their professional debut in the Pro 12 or Aviva Premiership. These players, and the experience they bring to the group will be crucial to the success (or otherwise) of the Under 20s in this tournament.

Callum Hunter-Hill

Position – Lock (and squad captain)
Previous caps – 13
Pro team – Edinburgh (although he made his one Pro 12 appearance for Glasgow in 2016/17)
Key strength – Never takes a backwards step
Useless trivia – Once appeared for Glasgow in a friendly against the Army as part of a squad that included Hunter (George); Hunter (Gregor); Hill (Jason); and Hunter-Hill (Callum).
He’s like a young…Nathan Hines. The u20s have been captained by high workrate lineout technicians in the last 2 tournaments (Lewis Carmichael and Scott Cummings). There are hints that Callum might develop more as the abrasive counterpoint – an in your face operator like Wagga who knows the value of disrupting the opposition physically and mentally.

Adam Nicol

Position – Tighthead prop
Previous caps – 9
Pro team – Glasgow Warriors through the Scottish Rugby Academy (1 appearance)
Key strength – The cornerstone of a set scrum that had some fine moments in the Six Nations.
Useless trivia – He may be on an Academy deal for next season but as things stand he is Glasgow’s de facto 3rd choice tighthead – and with international duty on the cards for Zander Fagerson (and possibly D’arcy Rae) Adam is looking at significant minutes for the Warriors
He’s like a young…Paul Burnell. In his latter years Burnell was the immovable object in the front row and Adam looks to have the potential for that sort of solidity about him.

Matt Fagerson

Position – back row
Previous caps – 2
Pro team – Glasgow Warriors through the SRA (9 appearances)
Key strength – His all-round game – he can pretty much do everything.
Useless trivia – Made his Champions Cup debut just months after leaving school.
He’s like a young…Kelly Brown. Early on in his career, Kelly operated across the back row, making numerous early Scotland appearances as an openside before settling into the role of a grafting 6/8. Matt is similarly talented enough to make a go of playing any position but to reach the very top level he’ll probably need to focus on the skillset (and physical development) to be either a specialist 7 or an 8 who can cover elsewhere if required.

Ruaridh Dawson

Position – Scrum half
Previous caps – 2
Pro team – Newcastle Falcons (3 appearances)
Key strength – Plenty of 7s experience should mean an eye for a gap.
Useless trivia – Ruaridh played for England u18 and for England 7s at the Youth Commonwealth Games before debuting for Scotland u20 in the 2016 Six Nations.
He’s like a young…Bryan Redpath. Like Bryan he’s going to have a battle on his hands just to win the 9 jersey with 2 other scrum halves in the squad. Ruaridh will also be similar to Redpath with speed of thought and service to the fore.

Blair Kinghorn

Position – Full back / stand off
Previous caps – 10
Pro team – Edinburgh (42 appearances)
Key strength – A deadly strike runner.
Useless trivia – He’s the oldest player in the squad.
He’s like a young…Andy Irvine. Similar to the legendary Scottish full back he has an all-round skill set that could allow him to play almost anywhere in the back line.

12 Responses

  1. I don’t think you could describe our scrum as anything other than disastrous so far. They’re getting demolished.

    1. Yeah, still, we’ve been 40 points down at half time in previous meetings between Scotland and NZ. I’ve no doubt NZ will pull away as the game goes on but at least we’re still in it at half time.

      1. True, and had Kinghorn kicked better it’d have been even closer. It’s going terribly now, though.

  2. Going to be a defeat, but some of boys stood up well – that back row has a real bit of dog about it, and Hunter-Hill is excellent, is like a slightly more mobile Martin Johnson

  3. Some good moments in the game – when the lads back themselves they’re pretty handy – but they didn’t look very well coached to me, especially defensively. CHH, Graham and a few others looked really good. Kinghorn was pretty poor, aside from one break, and there was some shocking handling from both sides. Also, there was some bizarre referreeing – Scotland were penalised for going beyond the ruck, yet NZ were allowed to do it frequently, for example.

    1. Interesting point on the coaches. They have a head coach in Dalziel, but do they also have extra defence/skills coaches as the main team does?

      1. According to the website, they’ve got the following staff:

        Head coach: John Dalziel
        Assistant coach: Ben Fisher
        Assistant coach: Iain Monaghan
        Assistant coach: Sean Lineen
        Team Manager: Andy Miller
        Strength & conditioning coach: Derrick Spiers
        Team analyst: Paul Larter
        Team doctor: David Pugh
        Team physios: Jen Sweeting & Brian King

        I presume that the assistant coaches each have different roles. Some of the NZ lads were freaking big, too.

  4. Italy just beat Ireland 22 – 21. Ireland missed a pretty regulation kick to win after the hooter had gone.

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