As ever the forwards were the ones called upon to provide the hard graft during the World Rugby U20s Championship and they really stepped up. Providing 60% of the carries and 64% of the tackles the pack put their bodies on the line time and time again during five very physical matches in an incredibly short time frame. Here’s a guide to the players whose stats stood out for Scotland.
Appearances – most minutes:
- Callum Hunter-Hill – 400 (5 starts)
- Luke Crosbie – 400 (5 starts)
- Fraser Renwick – 379 (5 starts)
- Matt Fagerson – 377 (5 starts)
- George Thornton – 375 (5 starts)
Six of the Scottish pack started all five matches (Alex Craig is the man missing from the list above). Adam Nicol (4 starts, 1 sub) and Tom Dodd (3 starts, 2 subs) were also involved in every game. Compare and contrast with last season’s tournament where only 3 young Scots (Ally Miller, Scott Cummings and Dan Elkington) featured across all the side’s fixtures.
Continuity of selection allowed the Scottish eight to develop as the championship progressed but the huge physical effort to play, rest and recover and then play again just four days later over and over again cannot be underestimated. There will be some very tired bodies among this group and they will surely enjoy a few weeks off before, for most of them, the reality of pre-season training kicks in…
Attack – top carriers:
- Matt Fagerson – 12.9 carries per 80 minutes
- Tom Dodd – 12.0
- George Thornton – 10.0
- Alex Craig – 9.3
- Luke Crosbie – 9.0
Fagerson and Dodd were the go to options when it came to getting on the front foot – understandably so with each of the back rows breaking 10 tackles. Thornton backed up a strong scrummaging performance with great energy in the loose – ideal in an era where props have to be good at the day job but need to add something elsewhere around the park to justify their place in the side. As things stand, Big George is not in the Scottish Rugby Academy and doesn’t have a pro deal for next season – surely there’s a space for him in the Glasgow Warriors’ propping stocks?
Defence – top tacklers:
- Alex Craig – 11.4 tackles per 80 minutes (98% successful)
- Bruce Flockhart – 11.0 (94%)
- Luke Crosbie – 10.8 (93%)
- Matt Fagerson – 10.0 (91%)
- Tom Dodd – 8.2 (81%)
Across the last two U20s Junior World Championships, Alex Craig has made 75 tackles and only missed 1. Those are Jonny Gray type numbers. Add in his all round work rate and the comparisons only grow. Crosbie, Fagerson and Dodd also repeat from the top carriers list with Fagerson particularly impressive in averaging double figures in both aspects of the game – and bear in mind Zander’s wee brother will still be eligible to play for the U20s at next season’s tournament.
Discipline – minutes per penalty:
- Alex Craig – a penalty every 44 minutes
- Adam Nicol – 67 mins
- Matt Fagerson – 94 mins
- Fraser Renwick – 126 mins
- Callum Hunter-Hill & Luke Crosbie – 133 mins
This is normally an area that the props win hand down but Scotland’s improvement at the setpiece slashed the big lads’ penalty count from 22 in the 2016 event to just 8 this time out. George Thornton was only pinged once in 375 minutes which either suggests he is honest as the day is long or some kind of Jedi mind trick on the officials (“These are not the offences you are looking for…”)
All in all a very decent tournament for the future of Scottish rugby. Next up on Friday we’ll take a look at the backs.