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.
Carl Hogg will be the under 20s third head coach in as many years, following on from Bryan Redpath, who was in charge for the 2018 tournament, and John Dalziel who lead Scotland to 5th place in 2017. Hogg has by and large kept faith with the group that he guided through the U20 Six Nations – although injuries have deprived him of a handful of players.
- Jack Hill, Rory Jackson, Tom Marshall, Lomond McPherson and Mak Wilson could all make their debuts at this level.
- Rory Darge, Angus Fraser, Sam Grahamslaw, Charlie Jupp, Rufus McLean, Jack Mann and Finlay Scott might have been involved in the squad but for injury.
Will Hurd (Cardiff Metropolitan University), Euan McLaren (Ayr), Andrew Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks), Murphy Walker (Stirling County), Mak Wilson (Melrose)
Ewan Ashman (Sale Academy), Rory Jackson (Edinburgh Accies)
Cameron Henderson (Stirling County), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92 Academy), Marshall Sykes (Ayr)
Connor Boyle (Watsonians), Ross Bundy (Stirling County), Jack Hill (Durham University), Teddy Leatherbarrow (Sale Academy), Tom Marshall (Newcastle Academy), Kwagga van Niekirk (Golden Lions)
Roan Frostwick (Currie Chieftains), Murray Scott (Watsonians)
Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy), Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks)
Cameron Anderson (Wasps Academy), Grant Hughes (Stirling County), Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros), Ollie Smith (Ayr)
Jack Blain (Heriot’s), Matt Davidson (London Scottish), Rory McMichael (Heriot’s), Lomond McPherson (Watsonians)
- The current squad have 126 previous caps for the Under 20s (last year: 94).
- They average 4 (last year: 3) previous appearances each in the forwards and 5 (last year: 4) in the backs.
- 4 players featured in the last U20s World Championship – which equals the lowest number of returning players ever for Scotland.
- Forwards Ewan Johnson, Marshall Sykes and Murphy Walker along with stand off Ross Thompson combined for 9 starts and 7 sub appearances during the 2018 tournament.
- Jack Blain’s 80 minutes for Edinburgh away to Benetton 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 commenced.
- As things stand none of the squad currently have a full-time professional contract with a top tier team for next season. There have been some pretty strong rumours though that Matt Davidson is on his way from London Scottish to Glasgow Warriors as a medium to long-term replacement for Stuart Hogg.
- 12 members of the squad will still be eligible for the U20s next season. Add in Rory Darge (who played in the 2017 tournament); Rufus McLean (who played in this season’s U20 Six Nations); and Jamie Dobie (who will be on a full-time contract with Glasgow in 2019/20) and Scotland could send one of their most experienced squads ever to the 2020 Championship. The goal for this year’s crop is to avoid relegation so that when these guys return in 12 months it’s to the top tier tournament and not the second division World Rugby U20 Trophy.
One to watch – forwards
Position – Prop
Previous caps – 14
Pro team – Glasgow Warriors through the Scottish Rugby Academy (no first team appearances yet)
Key strength – Primarily a tighthead, Murphy has been able to slide over to play loosehead for both Scotland U20 and Stirling County. He hasn’t looked out of place on either side of the scrum and will continue to develop as he matures.
Useless trivia – He played more club games last season than any of Glasgow’s other SRA stage 3 players.
He’s like a young…??? Given his switching back and forth between TH and LH prop it’s a tough one to call at this stage. He’s likely to fit in again at loosehead for this tournament so that the young Scots can get their two strongest props on the pitch (Murphy and Euan McLaren). Once he settles into a role it will be easier to gauge where he’s going. There is maybe a bit of the Zander Fagersons about him (although not quite so precocious) and he definitely won’t take a step back when it comes to the physical stuff.
One to watch – backs
Position – Wing
Previous caps – 5
Pro team – Edinburgh through the Scottish Rugby Academy (1 appearance)
Key strength – He’s big – a rare commodity among Scottish backs until recently. Like Stafford McDowall last year the power Jack will offer in the backline will provide different options for Scotland. Also like Stafford before him there’s much more to Jack’s game than just size – he is fast and skillful as well.
Useless trivia – The first player born after 1st January 2000 to play for either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Could he become the first noughties full Scotland cap as well?.
He’s like a young… ??? A quick skim through Scotland’s wingers from the professional era doesn’t bring up too many like young Blain. The only taller wing would be Edinburgh teammate Blair Kinghorn who has shifted from his more usual full back berth on a reasonably regular basis for Scotland. Jack is a more powerful and aggressive player, more often using his size in a way that the sylphlike Blair will not. A fairly unique prospect then and one who could go a very long way in Scottish rugby.
The first matchday squad
Here’s the team Carl Hogg has selected for the opening game against South Africa. There are just 3 changes from the XV that faced England in the final round of the U20 Six Nations.
There’s a welcome return for Marshall Sykes who, along with Tom Marshall, comes into the back row for for the injured Charlie Jupp and Jack Mann. In the backline Grant Hughes is selected ahead of Robbie McCallum at inside centre.
Scotland U20 team to face South Africa U20: 15. Matt Davidson, 14. Rory McMichael, 13. Cameron Anderson, 12. Grant Hughes, 11. Jack Blain, 10. Ross Thompson, 9. Roan Frostwick; 1. Murphy Walker, 2. Ewan Ashman, 3. Euan McLaren, 4. Ewan Johnson, 5. Cameron Henderson, 6. Marshall Sykes, 7. Connor Boyle, 8. Tom Marshall.
Replacements: 16. Rory Jackson, 17. Andrew Nimmo, 18. Will Hurd, 19. Mak Wilson, 20. Ross Bundy, 21. Jack Hill, 22. Kwagga van Niekirk, 23. Murray Scott, 24. Teddy Leatherbarrow, 25. Nathan Chamberlain, 26. Robbie McCallum, 27. Ollie Smith, 28. Lomond MacPherson.
At Racecourse Stadium, Rosario in the World Rugby U20 Championship this Tuesday 3rd June (kick-off 2.30pm BST/ 10.30am local time) – streamed live on world.rugby/u20