Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


World Rugby U20 Championship 2017: Scotland v Wales

Connor Eastgate U20s
Scotland fly-half Connor Eastgate scores a try against Ireland in their must-win Pool B match at AIA Arena on day two of the World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 in Kutaisi, Georgia, on 4 June. Photo: Badri Ketiladze / World Rugby.

For the third time in this tournament Scotland face off against a Six Nations side they encountered just a few short months ago. After wins over Ireland and Italy in the pool stages now it’s the turn of Wales with both teams looking to make it into the playoff for 5th place.

The last clash between the Celtic cousins at Broadwood turned into a defences optional free-for-all with nearly a century of points scored as the Welsh emerged victorious 65-34 (and 8 tries to 6). So far in the WR u20 Championship, Scotland have shown a significant step up into their performance levels from February and March. So where can they still improve to allow them to wipe out that 31 point differential against Wales from last time out?


The young Scots have been devastating in attack at times. The quadruple threat out wide of Darcy Graham, Blair Kinghorn, Ross McCann and Robbie Nairn can break from anywhere and in Conor Eastgate and Stafford McDowell there are the players on the inside with the passing and offloading game to release them. The commitment to moving the ball has at times meant a high number of handling errors though, contributing to turning the ball over to the opposition 16 times per game in the pool stages. With a strong mauling game and powerful back row carriers like Matt Fagerson and Tom Dodd to call upon this game might see the coaches call for a little more circumspection and picking just the right moments to launch those lethal strike runners.


Scotland came into the tournament with plenty of options to select from in the back 3 and at half back – but with fewer alternatives in midfield. John Dalziel has got around this by deploying Ross McCann (nominally a winger) at outside centre. It’s certainly helped to spark Scotland’s attack but, combined with the unfamiliarity of some of the combinations, there have been defensive miscommunications and breakdowns for the Scots. For the players playing outside of McDowell at inside centre their tackle completion percentage currently stands at just 51%. It’s likely this will need to be significantly better to ensure there is no repeat of the sight of Welsh tries racking up.


The success rate for kicks at goal has been a lowly 40% so far in the Championship, with 6 made and 9 missed. This hasn’t been a result-changing factor so far but it didn’t help when the side were trying to stay within striking distance of the Baby Blacks and it contributed heavily to some very tense final moments in the other 2 pool matches where the games could have gone either way – despite Scotland dominating territory and possession. It’s important that skipper, Callum Hunter-Hill feels he can rely on his kickers to keep the scoreboard ticking over and Scotland gather points on as many possessions in the Welsh half as possible.


There is one other factor that will play an increasingly significant role in these matches during the latter stages – tiredness. The tournament setup has these young lads playing a game every 4 days in much higher temperatures than a Scottish summer. The competitive nature of Scotland’s pool has meant limited opportunities for John Dalziel to rotate and mange his resources so there will almost certainly be some changes for these last 2 games.

Conditions in Manchester may have been less of an issue but the attritional nature of matches every 4 days played a big part in Scotland losing the majority of their first choice side through injury before they reached the final game of last season’s tournament. In fact achieving the goal of making the middle tier of the Championship has left the Scots short in the latter stages for the both the previous 2 seasons – can this campaign’s edition of the u20s become the first ever to win a playoff match in the 5th to 8th tier?

Heres the unchanged team John Dalziell has named to play Wales:

15. Blair Kinghorn, 14.Robbie Nairn, 13. Ross McCann, 12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Darcy Graham, 10. Connor Eastgate, 9. Andrew Simmers; 1. George Thornton, 2. Fraser Renwick, 3. Adam Nicol, 4. Alex Craig, 5. Callum Hunter-Hill (captain), 6. Luke Crosbie, 7. Matt Fagerson, 8. Tom Dodd.

Replacements: 16. Robbie Smith, 17. Fergus Bradbury, 18. Daniel Winning, 19. Hamish Bain, 20. Archie Erskine, 21. Charlie Shiel, 22. Josh Henderson, 23. Lewis Berg

The match kicks off at 3pm UK time on Tuesday 13th June. ITV4 have the rights to the latter stages of the tournament but will be showing the England v South Africa match which kicks off at the same time. Streaming by World Rugby may be geoblocked due to rights issues but these are the places to try to see if there is any live coverage:

It’s also worth keeping an eye on Scottish Rugby’s Facebook page as they often post updates.

19 Responses

  1. A good analysis Kevin. The youngsters have been sparkling in attack, playing some lovely rugby, but I felt were showing a soft line in the midfield. The 51% tackle rate is quite a worry, although watching Wales in this tournament, they don’t seem to have had the same creative nous out wide that Scotland possess, and are more likely to come through the forwards.

    Defence will be key – if they can prevent Wales getting line breaks from whatever source, then the likes of Graham, Kinghorn and Nairn will have the opportunity to make their contributions really count.

    Given the way the u20s squad changes each year it’s not really possible to see progression in terms of results, but you can see it in terms of the improved attitude and professionalism within the coaching teams and Academy pathways. A win over Wales, and subsequent highest finish at this age group would be a good vindication of the resources the SRU have committed.

    1. Cheers! In some ways this is the way round you’d want it – as they move into the pro ranks it should be easier to coach and improve defence. There’s no substitute for instinctive attacking talent and the confidence to have a go.

  2. Well done the young Scots, fantastic result!!!! You have done your country proud

  3. That was an odd game – Scots mistakes made the Welsh look better than they were, and the disallowed try was a dubious call. It was odd that the Scots seemed to feel under pressure, there was very little offloading and not that much passing compared to previous games – I was begging them to pass on several occasions. Still, the important thing is that the chaps won, scored 4 (5?) tries and they should be very proud. Looking forward to seeing how they develop.

  4. Great performance. Pack was dominant 1 to 8. Thornton looks like a classy player, have Edinburgh signed him up?

  5. The SRU needs some recognition of where we are, as a small rugby playing country, in world rankings at senior and junior level. 5th and at least 6th is punching massively above our weight. So come on let’s have some positive comments on these guys, I can’t remember the last time Dodson had an interview published anywhere. Rory, can you arrange something for our blog site?

    1. 7s fortunes turned around under MacRae too – we’re competing at virtually ever level despite financial and playing base disparities. Dodson’s era has been a huge success. Also, isn’t a certain SJ responsible for oversight of rugby develpment at each level as Director of Rugby. Perhaps unfairly maligned (though he is a tit)?

      1. I think Dodson has done an excellent job attracting sponsorship and looking at other investment in the pro sides. The utilisation of scant resources for considerable reward is being seen in the men’s and women’s games at all levels, which suggests that money is being spent wisely.

        I’ll reserve any praise for SJ until there is a greater degree of clarity over his function. At the moment he could be doing anything and the rugby public in Scotland are none the wiser.

  6. A hugely encouraging game to watch, our u20s have worked out how to win tight games after being squeezed out a couple of times in the Six Nations. Really hope Cockerill gives the likes of Graham and Hunter-Hill a shot at Edinburgh next season, and does anyone know if McDowall is affiliated with either of the pro teams? He looks like the sort of bigger 12 who can be physical and throw an offload that the senior team is quite light on

    1. He’s in the Glasgow and the West Academy, so linked to the Warriors (although these things can be pretty fluid depending upon need!)

  7. Fabulous result for the lads and a testament to their talent ,skill and patience but most of all their phenomenal stamina.We do not yet have the strength in depth to empty the bench on 60 minutes and game after game in this tournament we have started with the same 15 and kept the key players on for the full 80. I must say I thought they would not have the energy to beat the Welsh but the forward effort was immense start to finish ;excellent line out work and the tight five set the standard that the rest of the team followed.Its great to watch a game at this level where our scrum is not going backwards;well done Adam Nicol and Thornton.
    Alongside so many other good things happening in Scottish rugby it is heartening to see that the future is bright.

  8. Thornton an exile not an academy player. His club listed as Bishop Burton College where presumably he’s studying. Definitely one of Scotland’s standouts this tournament so will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

    1. Quoted in Scrum magazine as saying his course at Bishop Burton finished in May so I’m assuming he’s looking for a club. Glasgow and Edinburgh each have 3 looseheads signed up for next season (+ Academy cover) so you might expect both sides to be looking to add one more. If they both want him who decides where he goes? The player himself? Or Scott Johnson?!

  9. Again only saw the end of the game, and am conditioned to expect the worst. But again the boys dug deep and got over the line – big talent, but also big hearts.
    They must be running on fumes – dare we hope they can beat the Aussies the day after the seniors do ? ?

  10. Great to see the blossoming of our rugby talent…the u20s could do with much more coverage!

    I’m still trying to find where to see this match in full – any help appreciated.

    1. On you tube, Georgian commentary if you can live with that, 1st and 2nd half are seperate.

  11. Ben Chalmers has left Bordeaux accordingly to his instagram page. Any place at Edinburgh for him I wonder? He’s a 10.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion