This week-long series of articles has hopefully been a worthwhile exercise in looking ahead towards how the Scotland squads of the future might turn out.
With two Six Nations down and two to go in this World Cup cycle this was an opportune time to undertake the Conveyor Belt exercise. The lack of rugby for the under 20s in particular, as well as no Super 6, have made it a bit harder to assess the credentials of some fringe candidates and the next generation about to break through. On the flip side, there has probably been more of an opportunity to see some Academy players and first year pros in action due to smaller squads at Edinburgh and Glasgow and the top line international players missing even more game time than usual.
Some key questions still remain to be answered in order to truly define where some players stand on the Depth Chart.
What opportunities are there likely to be for young players in the Rainbow Cup?
The omission of age-qualified players like Ben Muncaster, Matt Currie (both Edinburgh) and Jamie Dobie (Glasgow) from the under 20s training squad suggests that even with the clubs’ Scotland players back there’s an expectation some of these young lads could be in line for game time over the next six or seven weeks.
At this stage of the season – and given both teams’ struggles in the PRO14 – it probably makes sense to focus attention more towards 2021/22 rather than a full-on tilt at winning the Cup.
How will a handy looking group perform for Scotland in the delayed under 20s Six Nations?
There will be plenty of rugby this summer with a Lions tour and (fingers crossed) a number of Test matches for the full Scotland side. Some of the most interesting action could take place at age grade level where a number of serious prospects will be on show for the dark blues. Hopefully some decent streaming coverage will be available when the tournament kicks off in June.
What impact will the Super 6 have when it finally resumes?
One cohort of players that is not currently well represented in the Depth Chart Conveyor Belt discussions is the group who are solely competing in the Super 6. A full 12 months without rugby, coming off the back of the first year of the tournament, is not an easy place to make an assessment.
For players who graduated from the Academy system or who have previously had fully professional deals this competition has the potential to put them back in the shop window for another chance with Edinburgh or Glasgow. It will be easier to get an idea of where these guys stand when the Super 6 resumes – hopefully this summer or soon after.
Will competitions like Major League Rugby (USA) or Top League (Japan) prove to be a stepping stone for players back to the major leagues or more of a final destination in themselves?
The last year or so has seen a number of Scottish players pitch up in what might previously have been considered some non-traditional destinations. There are decent amounts of money being invested into these leagues and World Rugby remains keen to expand the game. How far away are we from a player spending one or two contract cycles in the US or Japan and then returning to Edinburgh or Glasgow? Or even a player from one of these leagues receiving a call-up to a Scotland squad?
These might seem slightly outlandish ideas right now but the next two or three season could be telling as to what level these tournaments can reach and any consequent impact on Scottish rugby.
What’s happening in the Scottish Exiles programme?
There are a number of Scottish Qualified players plying their trade around the world that have been well publicised (eg Finlay Christie) or have played age grade rugby for Scotland (eg Nathan McBeth).
There’s always room for more surprises though. In the last two months alone Josh Bayliss (called up by the national side), Sione Tuipulotu (signed by Glasgow) and Freddie Owsley (signed by Edinburgh) have all been confirmed as being SQ. Which other prospects are currently on the radar Scottish Exiles’ programme that we don’t know about yet?
Rugby’s conveyor belt churns relentlessly on and separate from the pressure for results in the short-term there also has to be an acceptance that some development for the future has to take place. By the time of the 2027 RWC there could be three (or even fewer) of the 2019 World Cup squad involved. That eight year spell will have to take in the transitioning out of the old guard and the rotation in of new blood in sufficient time to have them ready for rugby’s major global tournament.
At the Scottish Rugby Blog we will be keeping a close eye on how the Depth Chart Conveyor Belt develops in the coming seasons and monitoring how things are progressing towards future RWCs.
If you missed any parts of the Depth Chart Conveyor Belt links are below: