Former Scotland under-20 lock Williamson backs pathway programme but warns some players need longer to be ready

The Glasgow second-rower believes Covid also had a detrimental effect on player development

Max Williamson believes the Scottish pathway is still getting results © Craig Watson

MAX WILLIAMSON believes there is still sufficient talent coming through the player pathway and believes the picture will look a lot more positive within the next three years.  

The second-rower is one of a number of names to have been given a chance at Glasgow under head coach Franco Smith alongside the likes of Alex Samuel, Ben Afshar, Euan Ferrie, Gregor Hiddleston and Angus Fraser.

All were previously involved with the Scotland under-20 set-up at different stages, with Williamson part of the group that finished bottom of the Six Nations table in 2021 and 2022.

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Another last-placed finish this season has again prompted more questions about the suitability of the system, especially with the Super Six/Series programme now disbanded and the recent announcement about professional ‘A’ games and expanded academies.

The fact that players like Williamson – who has started the last three matches for Warriors – have proved their worth at senior professional level show that the talent is there, even if national age-grade teams continue to struggle as a collective.

The 21-year-old also believes it is just taking Scottish players a bit longer than others to reach the levels required.

“With the young players, from the start of Covid we struggled a bit with physical development,” he said. “Our actual rugby playing looked good, we’re just a bit small and need a bit more physicality, but it’s coming.

“Looking at this [season’s Scotland under-20s] there were a lot more positives. They played a lot better, looked more organised and were in the games for longer, so it is moving in the right direction but it’s not a quick fix.

“If you look at Ireland’s 20s five years ago, they weren’t performing. It’s that slow thing so hopefully in three years’ time the performance will come from the set-up.

“It’s difficult because sometimes it takes some guys until 23 [to be ready] and that’s when people feel more like it. Angus Fraser, he was 23 when he was coming in and sometimes people develop at different times.

“It’s not clearcut at under-20s who is going to develop well because there’s a lot still goes on in those next three years and I think they are really important.

“Not everyone is ready to come out and be ready for pro games, I certainly wasn’t. It’s a different game.”



Williamson admitted that being part of a team losing all the time can be a mental slog.

“I certainly know what it feels like and it’s not nice,” he added. “Even though it’s only six or seven weeks it feels like a lot longer when results aren’t going your way.

“You sometimes feel a bit helpless and there’s not much you can do so you just keep fighting for it. It’s a good development opportunity as difficult as it is. You do learn a lot from each game but it’s tough.”

Williamson has proved his value to Warriors this season and looks likely to feature against Cardiff on Friday night given Richie Gray’s injury and with Scott Cummings likely to be rested after Scotland duty.

The Strathclyde University maths student admits he was still racked with uncertainty just a few months ago but hoped an opportunity would arise which it did.

“To be honest, I doubted myself a bit at the start of the season,” he added. “I was a bit stressed out and wasn’t sure if I was going to get an opportunity so I was just focusing on myself and preparing so that if I did get an opportunity I’d be able to take it and keep myself there. Luckily I was able to get a chance so I was happy about that and it’s been great.

“I’m happy to get my first three starts and it’s good to get a good amount of game time. I must admit I was pretty tired, I’m not used to playing more than 20 minutes at a time, but it’s been good.”

Williamson also credits a loan spell at Doncaster Knights for preparing him for the step-up to the Glasgow first team.

“It helped a lot. It was a great experience and I enjoyed my time there. The physicality down in the Championship is really good. That’s the big part of it.

“I don’t think it’s the same in terms of speed or organisation but to develop physically as a second row it’s perfect. You get a bit of an edge almost and I thought it helped me a lot coming back here.”

Male Performance Pathway Round Table Part One: talent ID and what does winning look like?

About Graeme Macpherson 39 Articles
Graeme Macpherson is a freelance sports writer who covers rugby for a number of outlets.


  1. The Convid Scamdemic had nothing to with anything but government and WHO power and authority re. No 10.

  2. We’ve been playing the same side now for nearly two years. Three six nations. one autumn international one world trophy. And one super six tournament. The results have been disastrous. In every other sport in every other country if you have a losing side you make changes and keep making changes until you win bou not here.
    Agreed that rugby is a developmental game but the current incumbents of the u20’s with one or two exceptions are clearly way off where they should be and despite the resources that they have been given show no sign of improvement
    Our backs don’t score tries and our scrum has been embarrassing it’s clearly obvious the positions that need an overhaul and we have plenty of other players who have been starting every week in the premiership and Nat1 who have been completely overlooked. Surely from a developmental point of these boys should have been given chance instead of the serial failures who by the sounds of it are going to be given valuable academy spots and shoehorned into premiership teams.
    All the best of luck to Williamson and anyone else who gets a chance at Glasgow or Edinburgh but l feel really sad and angry for a crop of boys passed over by Murray and the SRUs shameful handling of pathway rugby.

  3. Gus Robertson makes a valid point – the article’s author, Graeme McPherson is the man to ask re Max’s comments. Yes?

  4. Sensible comments from Max Williamson. He is basically saying our players take longer to reach rugby maturity stage. This is a mix of the wider Scottish talent pool(ie every young person playing rugby in Scotland) not getting the right S&C development over long periods and also not getting the right exposure to enough competitive games to develop their skills. We need to take a leaf out of the Italian book. Focus on making the community game stronger as their S&C is embedded in the culture of every club. This means they have a wider pool of stronger, fitter young men to select. The Scottish system is a beauty pageant starting at 15 or 16, when the development levels of young boys are very different and where age of birth in year group has a life-defining effect on a young person’s selection opportunities. The SRU should go big on auditing every club’s S&C (facilities and qualified trainers) and help build capability and an ethos for group S&C across midi teams. That way, the whole age group are evolved and developed. Once that is sorted, they should keep the Scottish age group selection wider so that at least 2 teams are selected for U16, U18, U19 and U20 so that a wider pool of talent is honed and available to give time to young people who have different development speeds in confidence, physicality, self efficacy, skill, team orientation etc. Finally to avoid nepotism, the regions should swop and conduct the selection process on other regions so that coaches don’t pick their own players.

  5. Its not about the players per se. Its about game time, experience, training, development, and the access to people who can make all of that work for them in the pathway.

    Covid has nothing to do with it. Our pathway has been on its backside for years.

    Ireland, where I reside, has a very healthy, competitive club and school scene that is geared towards identifying and nurturing talent with quality coaching at all levels and access to competitive environments that are geared towards performance enhancement.

    We have 6 club leagues under the AIL banner, our schools leagues and cup competitions, and regional competitions that feed into national events.

    Can we honestly say that about Scottish rugby?

    Not from where I am standing.

  6. it’s all good for max a great player and deserves the contract however what about the dozens of others that have been disregarded with out a thought by edinburgh glasgow and the Sru
    he isn’t exactly going to say anything else

  7. We have to be very careful here. This looks awfully like the SRU trying to control the narrative around the debate. I doubt a guy like Williamson would just come out with this, so ask yourself was he prompted and why and by whom????

  8. This is a useful addition to the discussions on player development.

    The question is – what is contributing to the slow development of Scottish players? The covid factor will have a bearing but all countries had that issue, so unless there are unique Scottish circumstances that can go to the bottom of the factors list.

    Perhaps they should be playing rugby for more than 20 minutes at a time? If S6 had been based on U23 player base with some older players than the other way round it might still be here.

    What is true is this is a long term project.


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