Forget the ‘Edinburgh Six’ – plight of U20s is the real scandal in Scottish rugby

Second successive Six Nations whitewash reinforces the impression that player development is a disaster zone

Scotland Under-20s were thrown to the wolves during this Six Nations. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland Under-20s were thrown to the wolves during this Six Nations. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE sun set on a miserable men’s Six Nations window for Scotland with the under-20s slumping to a painful 59-5 loss to Ireland on Sunday evening, and head coach Kenny Murray admitted that he was disappointed but not particularly surprised by how the campaign had unfolded for his team.

The age-grade side have now suffered back-to-back championship whitewashes. At least they managed to pick up a solitary bonus-point this season for scoring four tries against England in round one, which is progress of sorts – if you are an incurable optimist.

The plight of the under-20s should be a bigger cause for concern than the senior team’s recent tribulations. At least Gregor Townsend’s side managed to be vaguely competitive throughout their Six Nations campaign and most of their problems are cultural so more easily fixed if the key personnel are prepared to grasp the nettle.


10 takeaways from the final round of the Six Nations

Scotland quartet return to Edinburgh ranks for South Africa double-header

U20s 6N: young Scots are run ragged as Ireland stroll to a Slam


The problems at under-20s level are far more deep-rooted than that, with implications which directly link to the long-term sustainability of the sport in this country. This Scotland team was thrown to the wolves. They fought bravely for survival in each of their five outings before eventually being swallowed up by bigger, stronger and better-prepared opposition. Their average losing margin was 22 points per game.

No blame for this can apportioned to the players, they have been badly let down by a system which doesn’t produce enough individuals with the ability and experience to compete at this level. It is not the case that they weren’t good enough, rather they weren’t given the chance to be good enough.

Former Glasgow Warriors defence coach Murray (who took charge of the under-20s as part of his new job title as Scottish Rugby’s ‘Head of Player Transition’ less than three weeks before the Six Nations started), broke with current Murrayfield orthodoxy by recognising the full grimness of the situation. But he also claimed that a number of quick fixes can be put in place to ensure immediate and meaningful improvements.

“To be honest with you, I expected it to be tough,” Murray admitted. “Looking back at the results in the summer down in Wales [in the delayed 2021 Six Nations], losing 43-3 to Italy highlights where we are.

“What’s happened with Covid has not been great for us during the last year and a half, and I think some of what we’ve seen is an outcome of that,” he continued. “But there is a whole host of areas we’ve got to get better.

“We need to look at our talent identification and making sure that we get every player available to us who can be available to us, and we need to look at our competition programme to ensure that players coming into the Under-20s are playing as much as they can in a competition which is a good intensity, so that means Super6.

“Players’ conditioning is a big thing. Some players out there tonight [against Ireland], I don’t think were conditioned to play at that level. Physically, we were completely out-muscled in the ball-carry and collisions, so we’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of improving that 20s programme and the players in it.”

 

The next rugby step for the home-based players in the squad is kick-off of the 2022 Super6 ‘Sprint’ series on 16th April. The 30-man squad named at the start of this Six Nations contained just 17 players located inside Scotland, and six of that number were not attached to a Super6 club. It gets worse because of the 11 Super6 players in the squad, only captain Rhys Tait, centre Duncan Munn, prop Mikey Jones and stand-off Christian Townsend got anything remotely close to meaningful game time in the part-time professional league which was set-up explicitly to act as a development tool for players with aspirations of reaching the pro game.

If Super6 doesn’t provide players like Gregor Scougall (who started at tight-head prop in all five matches having played for Currie Chieftains in the Premiership this season), Rudi Brown (who was farmed out to Hawick in the Premiership to get match-minutes after various factors including injury and restrictions on moving between Covid bubbles meant he had not played at all for Watsonians in Super6) and Andy Stirrat (who plays for Premiership side GHA and was identified by Murray as the team’s best player over the course of the campaign) with regular game-time, then you have to ask whether the league’s existence is justified? Murray promised that this issue is in hand.

“It is about partnership working,” he said. “There have already been discussions with the Super6 guys [coaches] and they know that it is there as a tool to develop the performance pathway in Scottish rugby by providing the link between the club game and the pro game and that the under-20s need to be an integral part of that.

“Part of my role is to work with the Super6 coaches and make sure that we are on top of that and making sure guys are getting games. The only way they are going to get better is to play better games. For a lot of the guys in the programme, this will be the hardest rugby they have ever played, so there is a lot of work to do.”

This is not a new problem. There have been occasional highs but it is far more often a struggle for Scotland at this level. In the last five years, Scotland finished second in the table once in 2020 (although England and France would have both overtaken them if they had played and won their abandoned final match), fifth once, and last three times. Their average finishing position in World Rugby’s Under-20 Championship since its inception in 2008 is 9.25.

After finishing bottom of the World Championship in the summer of 2019, Scotland were relegated to the second-tier ‘Trophy’ competition where they were due to play against sides like Spain, Uruguay and Hong Kong before Covid wiped out the 2020 tournament. They have still not had a chance to secure promotion back to the top table, and it is not going to happen this summer because on-going Covid concerns have kept both the Trophy and the Championship in lockdown. However, there will be some more age-grade rugby for this group after the Super6 ‘Sprint’ series is finished.

“We’re looking at an event which is going to be organised involving the Six Nations teams and maybe another team. I think it was going to be in Georgia but they are now looking at moving that to one of the Six Nations country,” explained Murray, who added that he expects his team to be better equipped to compete by that point.

“We’ve been missing a few guys through injury like [loose-head prop] Tom Banatvala, who played really well against England, Alex Samuel, who is a big lock in the Glasgow Academy but hasn’t been involved all programme, and Ollie Leatherbarrow, who was one of our best performers at the start of the campaign in the back-row. We don’t have enough depth in our programme that we can lose those guys and still compete, so hopefully we’ll get those guys back in the summer and we’ll also look to bring through a few younger guys ahead of next year.”

Beyond that, a more strategic approach to growing the game needs to be developed, which doesn’t just mean more kids getting introduced to rugby but also more opportunities for ambitious youngsters to play at a higher level. That requires meaningful investment [remember that £20m government funding package?], some tough decisions to be made about where money should be directed, and some bashing of heads to get schools and youth/club branches of the game better aligned.

The Offside Line is working on a deep dive into Scottish youth rugby and what needs to happen next. Watch this space.


10 takeaways from the final round of the Six Nations

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About David Barnes 2991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

52 Comments

  1. The same absolute rubbish spewing out from Murrayfield. Kenny Murray is one of the many Teflon coaches at Murrayfield do a terrible job and just get moved around. How can putting loads of lean muscle mass and getting the players fit enough to carry it be a quick fix. Or maybe Fletcher will pull out some of his magic cards and that will fix the problem. Don’t blame Covid the other nations were in the same situation and they happened to come out of it in great shape. As for the players if you are being dictated to by lazy computer coaches who do not know how to get the best out of young men then again you should not be in the job. As for playing time they pull them out from playing around 2 months before any competition. 2021 Murrayfield said we are picking a young squad to gain experience for the next again season so lambs to the slaughter this year just shows how bad our system is. It is not fit for purpose the coaching is not fit for purpose and Fletchers magic cards are not going to fix anything apart from his huge salary.

  2. You guys in SRU need to take your heads out of your arses and recognise the historical contribution made by Scottish Exiles / SQ programme. Quality players available.

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    • It’s a numbers game. Scotland has circa 35k registered players, Wales circa 72k and Ireland about 105k. It’s time to go all out and expand the playing pool. That’s through the Scottish state school sector. The independent schools are already operating at max capacity. The growth opportunity is in the 255 State Schools in Scotland. And please don’t tell me it’s about kids in Scotland all preferring football. That’s rubbish.

  3. I look forward to your series of articles, this is a serious crisis and it threatens all the progress Scottish rugby has made at the professional end over the last 7 years.

    The frustrating thing is it shouldn’t be insoluble. Italy have grasped this problem and are already enjoying the benefits. Covid is a challenge granted, but Scottish rugby has recently been on a better financial footing than in previous times and I can’t imagine Italy is awash with cash. This is where investment, attention and commitment needs to go.

    • Comment on another forum that John Fletcher, who was recently recruited by SRU in Nov 21, comes with real pedigree and they were confident he’d create much more effective pathways and improve our performance at u20s.

      Will you be interviewing him as part of your deep dive to understand how he perceives the problem and how he intends to solve it?

  4. As a minis coach, father of an s1 who plays and with a son who plays for Saracens, three big things mean Scottish rugby has a tough gig remaining competitive.

    Concussion is having an effect on playing numbers. Our minis squad has halved with parents pulling kids the main reason. This is the same at merchant schools as well my son being at edin Acads.

    Two, despite all the culture jibes about it being a posh sport, state schools including posh demographic, aren’t interested in rugby, for many reasons.

    Third, the SRU could do a far better job and should direct energy to upskilling mini and age grade coaches to make rugby safer and more enjoyable. Too much bish, bosh and shouting with boring training still! There is no playbooks to help with variety either.

    Oh, and make it a summer sport!

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  5. So Premiership clubs will not allow surplus semi pro Super6 players to play for them but will welcome full time professional players. Double standards and narrow self interest of a few Premiership is ruining Scottish rugby.

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    • It’s the SRU who told Clubs that S6 players playing against amateurs was a health & safety risk.

      Perhaps SRU needs clarify if they made a mistake in making that statement when setting up the franchise system.

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      • The playing down restrictions were crazy. According to our local match report, Aberdeen Grammar 2nd XV had several 1st team players playing down into Cally North 2 when their Premiership game was cancelled. Yet SRU were saying you couldn’t play down from S6 to Prem.

        Playing up/ down is crucial for player development and the overall health of the game.

    • David – there is nothing in the comp regs that stops players being in 2nd XV fixtures. I would say it’s bad form to select players from Premier level to play in North 2.

      There is safety issue here and the North 2 players are at greater risk of injury playing against much better conditioned and fitter opponents.

      Had similar in Midlands 3 a few seasons ago when 11 National 1 first team players showed up. We got trounced not surprisingly. But what was the point? Removing actual reserve players to slot in 1st teamers. Bizarre.

      And on the broader point. If it’s just a free for all between Super 6 and Premiership do we think that just maybe, the Clubs that happen to have Super teams might have an advantage?

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  6. Hi Mark
    I am staggered that GT has total
    control over the coaching system as you describe .
    If you put this together with Iain Morrisons comments
    on GTs tight / non flexing micro management style
    then you have a recipe for failure if his basic strategy is wrong / not going to plan and his management style won’t allow him to change course

  7. The U20s set up has been a total mess for years, it’s not just this year. The system needs a number of changes to be competitive.
    Covid is not an excuse as all the other teams have had to deal with the same issues.
    Super6 players involved in the U20s just haven’t played enough rugby, so getting dropped in at international level is never going to work – they aren’t battle hardened like England academy players that play week in week out. That’s fact. Nothing to do with the players who have their playing time limited – you can do all the work in the gym you like – it’s different from match fitness. Some of these players will only ahve played half a dozen matches this season and they’re expected to do into international rugby?!
    These lads are now coming straight from school and get everything given to them – top hotels, kit, food, travel so there is no personal sacrifice in the same way that athletes in other sports have to suffer, and they think they’ve made it when they get an academy contract. That’s not their fault – its the way they’re treated by the SRU, and that needs to change. They need proper warm up matches before tournaments and parachuting a player in at the 11th hour that has been spotted playing in the England lower leagues that has a Scottish granny doesn’t work either. They’re mostly academy players so there is no excuse for them not to be playing warm up matches.
    The bigger issue is that the SRU don’t realise that all these other sports have got their acts together over the last 10 years so hockey, martial arts, basketball etc are all much more attractive and accessible with much less health risk AND a better ROI than rugby. That’s a major reason why the sport is dying – Why would you take up rugby with such a small avenue at the top to international honours when you could get a Black Belt in 5 years that will give you kudos for the rest of your life? I worry for our sport – it IS dying and no one at the top seems to realise.

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  8. The U13-18 Conference arrangements are not fit for purpose as it groups all age group teams in a club or school at the same level and ignores that there may be diffences between individual and team skills and performances within those teams. The result for our U14 team was we were forced to play in the second tier Conference resulting in the situation where all our games, barr one, were stopped within 20 minutes as we had racked up the points difference which forces, in accordance with SRU rules, the game to be stopped and restarted as a development game. The lack of meaningful opposition frustrated our boys and no doubt the games did little for the confidence of our opponants. Teams should be competing against others of a similar standard. The Conference system at all levels across Scotland operated by the SRU has resulted in teams being mismatched, games cancelled, children been disencouraged and above all talented players not being given the opportunity to improve the skills. Teams need to play against the level of opposition needed to develop both the team and individuals. Skillful players not given the best opportunity at their club due to the SRU artifically restricting their teams opportunity will leave and move to a club which is able to give them that opportunity. Luckily during the second half of the seadon we have played friendlies against many of the teams in the top Conference and have demonstrated that we are more than competent at that level. This is in no way due to the SRU control and management of youth rugby but despite their best efforts to hind full opportunity for all.
    The current Confernce system needs to be scrapped and all club and school teams need to be playing at a suitable level for their skills and development needs.

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  9. I bow to the superior knowledge of the majority of folk commenting.
    However, a point of order if I can.
    To suggest that Scotlands senior XV were “ vaguely competitive” during the 6 Nations Campaign is “ crossing the line “ and not in the sense that these lads did on a number of occasions. Have some respect for these men who put their bodies on the line. The auld adage rings true. “ The best players sit in the stands” or wielding a vicious finger on a keyboard whilst hiding behind a screen. Get a grip.

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  10. Too easy to say S6 has ruined rugby.
    S6 is centrally funded so the format can be changed if it’s not working, and that was always intended.
    I don’t deny it has problems and it’s striking how few U20s play in it.

    Are they good enough to play in it though, and if not why not?

    Schools rugby is dominated by a handful of private schools with big programmes and sport scholarship schemes who compete with each other and trounce everyone else.

    Can something be done centrally to get other organisations- clubs or other schools – to their level and then get them playing each other?

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  11. Gregor Townsend now has control over the whole coaching system with his Glasgow assistant coaches now installed at all the big coaching jobs:
    Edinburgh – Mike Blair
    Glasgow – Danny Wilson
    U20 – Kenny Murray.
    If we think that it’s not working with the national team, is the same coaching ethos and attitude being used at Edinburgh, Glasgow & U20s. How much influence and control does GT have over the whole system?

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  12. Watsons Under 16 Team has beaten all and sundry (see cup win) including Newcastle and Sedburgh of late. What are they doing right? Generally i think we need more people playing the game and that means developing the state schools game. In Edinburgh the likes of Trinity and Linlithgow have had decent teams in the past. I wonder if it could be linked to tackling obesity through widening participation in sport as there is truly a place for everyone on a rugby team imo.

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  13. What was wrong with the old prem 1 .
    Young players played with and were up against seasoned experienced players many from overseas
    Also pros were playing released from Edin & Glas .
    If you stood out against these players you got noticed .
    Many of the current Scottish squad will have came through the clubs .they were spotted .
    Super6 has taken many young players with no real experience of the hard knocks out of the club rugby teams to stand on the sidelines most weeks not playing .
    I can’t see any benefit of Dodson’s super6 folly .and recent results show it for all to see

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  14. Although not at the same level I have watched a group of reasonably talented players drift aimlessly around because COVID removed them from meaningful rugby for 18 plus months. I believe playing is what matters Super 6, Prem Rugby or out of Scotland. They need to play, against their peers as much as possible. A growth mindset is hugely important as well and defeats hurt but can be the making of a team if managed well. It leaves a mark I need to get bigger faster stronger and ultimately they ain’t doing that to me again and neither is anyone else. I would look at an Autumn series of matches against Spain, Rumania and Georgia to expose players to the environment and also set standards and also monitor progress provide the best S&C support in-house and hopefully developing a winning culture

  15. It starts in the earlier years. Kids are being turned away. Recent u16 district trial squads have been restricted to 6 kids per school. This takes no account of the talent within a particular school. Kids good enough to make the regional team and maybe national team don’t even get a trial. It is also regional so if one region is strong kids in that region miss out.

  16. The Super 6 has a big role to play but to blame it on the failure of the U20’s is an easy get out for people, the U20’s have failed long before the Super 6 was created. However more joined up thinking is required which means everyone thinking of the big picture and not just the me me attitude that prevails throughout our game at the moment.
    If Super 6 is going to play an important role ( which I believe it can) then the 2 pro clubs have to work closer with the Super 6 clubs. Releasing more pro players, especially at the start and end of the seasons to the Super 6 clubs to improve the standard and give players more game time. Like wise the Super 6 clubs must take on their main role which is to develop Scottish players for higher levels if these players want it. Winning the Super 6 competition should run in conjunction with development of players. Last year certain Super 6 clubs had far too many players playing who were not Scottish qualified.
    However it goes further than this, the clubs in the Premiership have to open their doors to giving game time to Super 6 players not getting game time, this of course increases the standard of the Premiership and gives teams more players in their squads creating more depth.
    The obsession clubs have about winning their leagues or simply just winning at the expense of everything else is killing our game. A nation the size of Scotland has to have everyone working together for the same goal. More players playing and successful pro and international teams.
    The escapades of the 6 players does our game no good, they should have known better. Likewise where has the integrity of our club game gone? You only need to look at the “ use “ of Covid as an excuse for clubs not to play games to show that trust and honesty does not exist anymore. For those of you holding up your arms at that statement I challenge you to look at the cancellation of games due to Covid, it’s a remarkable wee bug that can choose when to be active from one week end to the next.
    In short it is easy to blame, the hard bit is looking at the bigger picture and making decisions for the good of the game as a whole and not just my own back yard.

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    • Iain – while your comment might well have spilled out of the Fat Controller’s personal playbook, it doesn’t look particularly clever or realistic to devote so much time, effort, finance and other resources as you suggest in a questionable attempt to justify or make a relevance (far less a success) of Dodson’s Super 6 Folly which is little more than a contrived, imbalanced carbuncle on the backside of Scottish rugby…..

      You refer to “joined-up thinking” and the “big picture”. Better by far to dig a whole lot deeper…..! Then, dust off the tried and tested traditional District model for higher-level Age-Grade & (semi-professional) Senior development and competition to reinstate historical connections, partnerships and rivalries in a proper vertically-integrated system that encourages & fosters player improvement and competitive excellence in a practical setting. An attractive, well-supported two-way mutually beneficial conduit of talent, between the clubs and Districts, a recognisable development continuum primarily managed by the clubs themselves and funded by the SRU that would engender buy-in from all stakeholders.

      What better use for some of the unspent £18 million from the SG’s £20 million Covid Emergency bailout funding specifically intended to support grassroots & community rugby across the country that the SRU is, even now, still sitting on?

      Then again, we’d require the body of clubs to wake up, smell the liniment, and rise up in support of such an ambitious operational restructuring (along with a fit for purpose revised system of governance ensuring those sometimes supine, recently-cowed clubs – rather than the self-serving usual suspects – again have a hand on the tiller at EH12).

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    • As usual Well said Iain. We must be the only country in the rugby world that creates rules specifically to stop folk playing. Banning folk for 12 months who play s6 then drop out for me brings the game into disrepute. It’s nuts if we genuinely want improvement

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    • Interesting comments as always Iain.

      Sadly your dog at the Premiership clubs “allowing” S6 players gave time is misplaced.

      Super 6 came with Agenda 3. Pros (part time or otherwise) won’t play against amateurs. End of story. Murrayfield drove that through and are now throwing their hands up because they didn’t recognise any unintended consequences. Who knew? Well anyone with any insight saw this coming.

      As I pointed out it’s not the U20s or Super 6 by themselves. They are mere symptoms. What is needed is substantial root cause investigations to get to the heart of the issues. For me is about how we have increase the player base massively.

      There is no strategy, no joined up thinking and frankly no results in Scottish rugby.

      It’s going to take humble inquiry and a willingness to change from us all – pros, clubs, committee people and players to pull us out of the current morass

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      • So Premiership clubs will not allow surplus semi pro Super6 players to play for them but will welcome full time professional players. Double standards and narrow self interest of a few Premiership is ruining Scottish rugby.

  17. What bugs me is the insistence on playing our “pedigree” players. They became introverted and wasteful as the tournament went on. Why was Euan Cunningham not given an opportunity at 10?
    Also what help do they get on the mental side of the game? Since if they are not given regular super6 game time…. They too will be lost to the game.

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    • The Pedigree players didn’t offer anything in under 20 ‘s .
      2 years with no wins
      I said for weeks certain positions should have been changed but nothing ever happened .
      The sub scrum half looked good when he came on but never got a start.
      The sub 10 never got a look in .why?
      He must be really dissolutioned going home having never got on to pitch .
      Management must be really scared of someone
      The saying once your in you can’t get out is true.
      That’s what stinks in Scottish rugby .it helps who you know and where you come from

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  18. If we want to make comparisons let’s look at Ireland.their competitive rugby began with a schools cup in 1876 and schools rugby to this day is huge. They often get crowds bigger than we get at club games. The Irfu use rugby to promote Ireland on the world stage. Our government only sees sport as a photo opportunity. We also have football to deal with.
    Having watched the recent u18 district games our kids are underdeveloped physically and skill wise. Our club u18 structure is also struggling so if we are really desperate to get this right .Clubs schools ,Academies must set aside their personal views and create something that encourages the masses to enjoy the game plus harvest those who have that bit more.
    As always getting folk to put aside the mindset of “change is fine as long as it includes us” will be an issue.
    The first part of getting this right is to look in the mirror and be honest. We need greater numbers for a healthy game so more kids playing we need the best then playing against each other and we need the very best playing as much as possible .
    Academies may need to rethink the way the use their players. They are often unavailable as they are being rested from training with pro teams or are injured due to that training. Personally I believe playing in s6 is better than holding a bag and getting hurt on a Thursday afternoon
    This will take an effort yet to be seen in scottish rugby as we simply don’t do agreement.

    • I agree with almost all you say here – really important points.

      The one area I take issue with is your comment on the U18’s. We are never going to be, as a nation, big and physical. Since pro rugby began, I don’t think we have ever produced that. What we do have are young players with great skills and speed. But the U18 regionals focussed on anyone who had a bit of size, rather than who could find space and create things. That seemed to be the chief focus.

      We need size – don’t get me wrong – but not at the expense of all else. And at the moment I feel we are prioritising size, which will come back to haunt us.

  19. Easy and lazy to take from the comments that Super 6 isn’t fit for purpose. The current U20s generally aren’t fit for Super 6. We need to understand that U20 at this level is mens rugby, so we need players who have been on strength and conditioning programmes for 3 years prior, just in order to compete. Get proper S&C advice available to young rugby players online. Doesn’t have to be gym based, plenty body weight type stuff they can do. In England about 1000 U14s are given this advice every year as part of their Pro team player development journey, thats what you’re up against. Once they are bigger and fitter, they are more competitive and more able to survive in Super 6 etc. Also, its time we realised coaching age group is a specialist skill, not just somewhere to put a former pro team coach we need to find a job for. The one bit of good news is the SRU’s appointment of John Fletcher who was and is a fantastic age group coach. He’ll have the structures, coaches and players in place to have us competitive within 3 years.

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    • That’s going to be a shock to all the S&C coaches in the academy system and generally around Murrayfield.

      What have the Super 6 coaches been doing to improve these U20 players? From the results on the pitch not much.

      You are making a category error to the point I made in my original response. What is the purpose of Super 6 rugby?

      Develop upcoming players?
      Higher level of rugby to club game?
      Win things?

      The basic problem is these guys aren’t playing enough rugby and Super 6 isn’t helping them.

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    • Of the 28 player squad announced at the start of the tournie, 12 are SRU academy players – one would hope they have been on a controlled S&C programme for several years and also presume are linked to a Super 6 Club so they can get game time as part of their structured development process.

      Of the remainder, 11 are based outside of Scotland, so we probably have little control over what they do, which leaves 5 players, one of whom is shown to be an Edinburgh Rugby player, with two from GHA and two from Glasgow Hawks.

      In total, 10 of the players are shown as contracted to either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

      Log into Scottish Rugbys training hub, and you will find a range of S&C resources aimed across the age groups available to Clubs, from resistance training to speed development as well as warm-up & cool-down guides.

      Super 6 was set up and taken outside of the control of the Clubs and included in the Performance Rugby side of the business as we were told Club rugby was not fit for the purpose of developing these players.

      It appears the replacement system is also not fit for purpose, so where do we go from?

      • Being a Scot living (and coaching) in England, I’m not sure I can log into the SRU Coaching hub. If such resources are available then either they are not fit for purpose, there is a disconnect with them being there and being used or we have a vanishingly small number of committed ambitious teens who are prepared to put in the hard yards. Whichever it is, there is a huge difference in physique between us and the others 6N.

  20. Well said John. Their should be more games between Private and State schools to identify new talent. Also the SRU should look at how Italy have managed to produce an U20 team that is far better than ours.

    • Investment in academies, conditioning and ensuring those not directly involved with URC teams are in top 10 sides.

  21. Perhaps there should be a 6 Nations Trophy competition that we play in so we get games against teams at our own level.

  22. Good job highlighting this issue David. Been really worries about how these issues have been getting papered over by the “progress” of the National team. We have to sort this out now or we’ll be a backwater rugby nation and pressure needs to be put on the SRU. Maybe attach Dodson’s bonus to the success of the U20s…

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  23. No doubt – change is needed, and we can all debate what that should be, but at least most have the future of the sport in our country front and foremost in our minds ….

    It’s not about the Super 6, it goes much deeper than that, into schools and proper funding for clubs. Get the ingredients right there and we will be rewarded in the future.

    Italy recognised this some years ago, and prioritised the development of the youth age grade, which is now starting to feed through – when will we learn and stop decisions being made on short-term basis which is starting to strangle the sport.

    Not good enough, must be nice earning what they do while overseeing the decline of their core business.

    Back to Super 6, how about a football U20 analogy…. Pick’n’mix – and specify that they have to be U20 with a certain number (5?) players more experienced???

  24. Unfortunately for Murrayfield and Kenny Murray the U20 problem is merely a symptom of the ails of Scottish rugby. It’s good to hear Kenny admit there are issues.

    We can’t sustain ourselves as a tier one nation with under 9500 active male players. A small base makes for a very pointy top of the pyramid and we are now reaping that reward. When Murrayfield said “fewer but stronger clubs” what’s actually happened is fewer but weaker all over the board.

    It is obvious that the U20s haven’t played enough. From age 17-19 I had probably played 100 games. Sure it was at a low level but it certainly it enabled me to grow up as I was playing against much older men. I wouldn’t have learned that at training or in the gym.

    I don’t know if Super 6 is the answer or the problem. What I cant discern is – what is it here for? What is the problem Super 6 is trying to solve? If you can’t articulate that, the. It’s really just the vanity project some of us thought all along.

    I would imagine that the reason the U20 guys aren’t getting much game time is that coaches like to win games and trophies. In that famous phrase – you don’t win anything with kids. If it is about hothousing young players, set it up to do that. Stop importing foreigners. Make it U23.

    If it’s not about developing players, then drop that pretence.

    It’s ironically amusing that several of the U20s are getting developed in the “not fit for purpose” Premiership. Perhaps Kenny can extend his partnership to include those clubs? Playing in a highly competitive league week in week out must be better than getting a couple of appearances off the bench in S6.

    This is where the rubber hits the road. Some of my fellow posters are won’t to use “let the pros do their jobs”. Well now is the time for them to step up, identify the problems and execute strategies to get things improved.

    No pressure then.

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  25. The blame lies with both the SRU and each and every Rugby Club in Scotland. Not enough is being done on either front.

    Bring in summer rugby. It’s more fun to play in those conditions, the biggest, easiest transformational fix that can happen. Not just for players but for communities watching, Why are we still watching teams in the pissing rain or games being called off due to weather when we could be having Beers and BBQ watching a rugby festival on a summers day? guarantee the participation numbers will go up. And we would not be competing with other sports so much.

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    • But the player survey carried out for the season structure project didn’t back summer rugby. Indeed it said that players were generally satisfied with length and structure of current season.

      You might also have noticed that it can be quite wet in the summer. So while it might be nicer to have warmer rain, I’m not sure it’s the winner you think it is.

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      • Dom, the player survey asks existing players, those 2 booked tables at the dying restaurant who are happy with the poor food. To quote Chef Ramsay. I’m not interested in what those 2 booked tables think, i’m interested in what all the people not showing up to the other 30 tables think.

        And i’d take playing in warm rain over freezing my nuts off in hail any-day. There is a reason 7’s rugby at the end of season brings a much better atmosphere.

    • You’re absolutely correct, Angry Gala.
      At the same time, look at youth teams being based on height and weight rather than only age.
      Also need greater tie up between private and state schools. There was a great article on here a few months back about this between a private and state school in Perthshire somewhere – it just made so much sense on every level.

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  26. We also need a serious approach to finding potential bigger stronger young lads who could succeed at rugby. Need this to stretch across all state schools.

    • Well said John. Their should be more games between Private and State schools to identify new talent. Also the SRU should look at how Italy have managed to produce an U20 team that is far better than ours.

  27. Actually difficult to see where SRU goes from here. Scottish Youth Rugby is withering on the vine. At the end of the day, the players have given of their best but professionalism will always win over untested talent

  28. Great article addresses some home truths. But this crop of U20s were just not strong enough, fit enough or mentally prepared enough for what hit them in the 6N. A lot of that has to with the system they were brought up in. However as serious rugby players they have to take responsibility for some aspects of their preparation. In England the boys take responsibility for there own conditioning they are coached on how to eat properly and take strength and conditioning seriously. Our boys especially the forwards were to be frank woefully fat and slow to the point that they should not have been there in the first place. In the last 1872 cup game the Edinburgh pack were totally out muscled by the Glasgow pack yet the front row for the 6N was predominately Edinburgh biased. Our academy teams need to play against the academy teams of England and Ireland to understand how seriously the boys take their development.

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