World Rugby U20 Championship 2018: Scotland squad

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.

Bryan Redpath will take charge of the Under 20s for the first time after inheriting the job from Stevie Scott. “Basil” has made a number of changes from the group who played together in the 6 Nations – although most of those have been enforced by injury or unavailability.

  • Sam Grahamslaw, Finn Hobbis, Finlay Scott, Charlie Jupp, James Miller and Charlie Gowling could all make their debuts at this level.
  • Ross Dunbar, Cammy Hutchison and Patrick Anderson are recalled after missing the 6 Nations.

The Squad

Props
Ross Dunbar (Boroughmuir), Sam Grahamslaw (Leicester Academy), Finlay Richardson (Edinburgh Accies), Murphy Walker (Strathallan School), Finn Hobbis (Stewart’s Melville)

Hookers
Finlay Scott (Jed-Forest), Robbie Smith (Ayr)

Locks
Jamie Hodgson (Watsonians), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92 Academy), Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s), Marshall Sykes (St Joseph’s College)

Back Rows
Rory Darge (Melrose), Guy Graham (NEWCASTLE FALCONS), Martin Hughes (Heriot’s), Devante Onojaife (Northampton Academy), James Miller (Watsonians)

Scrum Halves
Charlie Chapman (Gloucester Academy), Charlie Gowling (Stade Francais Academy)

Stand Offs
Callum McLelland (EDINBURGH RUGBY), Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks)

Centres
Cammy Hutchison (Currie),  Stafford McDowall (Ayr), Fraser Strachan (Northampton Academy)

Wings
Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Hawks), Logan Trotter (Stirling County), Sam Yawayawa (Glasgow Hawks)

Full backs
Patrick Anderson (Melrose), Paddy Dewhirst (Ayr)

Analysis

  • The current squad have 94 previous caps for the Under 20s (last year’s squad – 127 and that itself was down from 214 in 2016). They average 3 (last year: 4) previous appearances each in the forwards and 4 (last year: 5) in the backs.
  • 4 players were also selected in the original squad for the last U20s World Championship – which equals the lowest number of returning players ever for Scotland. Matt Fagerson’s call-up to the full squad and an injury for fellow back-row Archie Erskine haven’t helped matters – both would still have been eligible after being involved last season.
  • Stafford McDowall is the only one of the returning players who was a starter in Georgia last year. Ross Dunbar, Robbie Smith and Patrick Anderson combined for 45 minutes off the bench during the 2017 tournament.
  • 16 minutes as a replacement for Glasgow Warriors against Munster for Stafford McDowall is the sum total of this group’s experience of Europe’s top leagues. Compare and contrast with the 2017 and 2016 squads which each had 5 players who had debuted at that level by the time those tournaments started.
  • Guy Graham (Newcastle) and Callum McLelland (Edinburgh) are currently the only players with full-time professional contracts for next season.
  • A further 22 players are attached to professional sides through academy systems – 9 with Edinburgh, 7 with Glasgow, 4 with English clubs and 2 with teams in the French Top 14.

Four to follow

Stafford McDowall

Position – Centre (and squad captain)
Previous caps – 15
Pro team – Glasgow Warriors through the Scottish Rugby Academy (1 appearance)
Key strength – At 6’4″ and already over 16 stone he’s massive for a young Scottish centre – and he can play a bit too
Useless trivia – He’s the tallest back in the extended Glasgow Warriors’ squad (bar converted flanker Richie Vernon, hallowed be his name).
He’s like a young…??? Given almost any player over 6’1″ involved in Scottish rugby gets stuck in the forwards it’s hard to find a good comparison! It will be fascinating to watch him develop and see what impact he can have in giving Glasgow (and Scotland?) different options in how they play through midfield.

Ewan Johnson

Position – Lock
Previous caps – 5
Pro team – Racing 92 through their Espoirs (Academy) set-up
Key strength – High work rate and consistency.
Useless trivia – All his rugby education has been in France – which should lend a physical edge to his play!
He’s like a young… Jonny Gray. The signs are there – he made 17 tackles made with none missed in what was a very challenging opening fixture against Wales during this season’s 6 Nations. His main influences at Racing are the contrasting pair of Leone Nakarawa and Donnacha Ryan so it will be interesting to see what effect that has on his game.

Guy Graham

Position – Back-row
Previous caps – 3
Pro team – Newcastle Falcons (no appearances yet with his deal starting next season)
Key strength – That legendary Graham chippiness will make him an awkward opponent for anyone, just like his dad, George, and older brother, Gary (recently called up by England).
Useless trivia – Finished as equal top try scored for Scotland in the U20 Six Nations (granted that only took 2 tries but still….)
He’s like a young….Hamish Watson. Like the Edinburgh flanker, Guy is a threat on both sides of the ball carrying hard into contact, tackling like a demon and providing a turnover threat to boot. Here’s hoping he doesn’t decide the Red Rose is more to his liking the way his big brother has…

Charlie Chapman

Position – Scrum-half
Previous caps – 4
Pro team – Gloucester via their Academy set-up (yet to make his debut)
Key strength – A consistent threat around the fringes, making ground himself and creating space for others.
Useless trivia – Comes from something of a production line of Gloucester scrummies that includes recent(ish) England U20s Dan Robson and Callum Braley plus former Scotland U20 Ben Vellacott.
He’s like a young… Bryan Redpath. Well the height (or lack of it!) is there – Charlie is an inch shorter even than George Horne and 2 inches shorter than “just remember that he’s only wee” Ali Price. Hopefully, the current U20s coach can impart some wisdom as to how the smallest player on the pitch can still control the game.

The first matchday squad

Here’s the team for the opening game against Italy and it features just three changes from the XV that faced Italy in March – Redpath is looking for continuity, it seems.

Scotland U20 team to face Italy U20: 15. Paddy Dewhirst, 14. Logan Trotter, 13. Cameron Hutchison, 12. Stafford McDowall (Capt), 11. Kyle Rowe, 10. Ross Thompson, 9. Charlie Chapman; 1. Ross Dunbar, 2. Finlay Scott, 3. Finlay Richardson, 4. Ewan Johnson, 5. Jamie Hodgson, 6. Martin Hughes, 7. Rory Darge, 8. Devante Onojaife.

Replacements: 16. Robbie Smith, 17. Sam Grahamslaw, 18. Murphy Walker, 19. Charlie Jupp, 20. Guy Graham, 21. Charlie Gowling, 22. Callum McLelland, 23. Fraser Strachan.

At Stade de la Méditerranée in the World Rugby U20 Championship this Wednesday 30 May (kick-off 5.30pm GMT/ 6.30pm local time) – streamed live on worldrugby.org

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When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

16 comments on “World Rugby U20 Championship 2018: Scotland squad

  1. Martin on

    Great detail – hoping that some of these lads can grab the bull by the horns and make a name for themselves

  2. TeamCam on

    Disappointing from the lads – threw the game away today with some poor decision making.

    • The Chiel on

      Have to agree – playing boys against men in the pack was definitely poor decision making !
      But you’re right, although some slack has to be cut given age and experience. But the scrum and particularly the line out deficiencies killed us – why throw long when we just needed the ball ? Mind you, I think that Italian pack will bother bigger teams than us.
      Some good skills on show though, but so disappointing to go behind for the first time at the very last play.

      • TeamCam on

        Yeah, the size difference had an effect, but their scrum was largely neutralised in the last 30 and on the rare occasion we won lineout ball and mauled we devastated. It was the lineout throwing and missed touchfinder that got me – four or five penalties wasted. Can’t blame anyone but yourselves when you’re that wasteful. Still, when they clicked they looked very good.

  3. Scrummo on

    Our pack weighed in at 820kg compared to the 910kg of the Italians. The front rows alone 305kg for us to 355 for the Italians. No wonder the scrum struggled. The only three players in our forwards over 110kg were Grahamslaw, Johnson and Onojaife who all came through English or French academies.

      • Scrummo on

        It is rather alarming and it’s a shame as some of these players are clearly talented but are a couple years of conditioning behind their contemporaries from other nations.

        We won’t have another Zander Fagerson or McCallum who are ready to drop in at pro level at age 20 and push for the international team almost straight away if our lads need to pack on some significant bulk to catch up first.

        Players like those show it can be done but almost all other nations are able to churn out players the right size year in, year out. Hodgson looks a good prospect but he’s 105kg. Johnson who has come through in France is 118kg and both of Italy’s locks were 120 odd kg. Hodgson will need to bridge that gap before he can even think of tackling the pro game.

  4. Jock In Paddyland on

    That was a match that Scotland should have won. It was basically lost due to them being destroyed in the scrum and to the woeful lineouts. Missing the kick to touch for the late penalty didn’t help either, or the relatively easy conversions that were missed.

    On the bright side, Scotland made good attacking moves for most of the match with some nice offloads. Unusually for a Scottish team the box-kicking was good – not too far and someone actually chasing the kick! I think there is quite a bit of promise with this team, but they could do with some more bulk.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      That’s the interesting/heartening bit – you can teach set piece and bulk up in the gym, but pure attacking instinct is a lot harder to imprint. If the boys have good ball/attacking skills, everything else can be picked up. Saying that the 20 minutes I caught at the end there were an awful lot of coughed up balls when Scotland did get some previous possession.

  5. FF on

    Disappointing but the truth is u20s results don’t really matter – individuals showing they can progress to senior rugby does.

    This team had some promising individuals. Clearly undone by exhaustion from battling a much bigger pack. I actually thought for 60mins they held their own up front so it is a shame they are looking at a very tough campaign.

  6. Alanyst on

    Didn’t see the game but, in general, I’d rather 105kg with good skills and fitness than 120 kg without….look at England and France now…plenty of meat but no brains. England are even poaching our U20 talent.

    I think “big body academies” might even be detrimental as skilled players get pushed out by yet another big lump.

  7. Pall Johnson on

    Im here in The south of France watching the games and thought the team played well and although we should have bagged a win we can easily smooth off the rough edges for the next game. Little bit of stuff to work on for the Argentinian game and we should be bang on the money. Good luck for the next game in Perpignan!!

  8. TeamCam on

    Having watched it again, Italy seemed to be offside for most of the game, but only we were penalised… some odd refereeing.

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