AYR hooker Robbie Smith has been named as captain of the Scotland Under-20 team for the Six Nations Championship opener against Wales U20s on Friday, with clubmate Stafford McDowall as his vice-captain. The two are the only members of the squad to have taken part in last year’s World U20 Championship, and their experience should be invaluable in helping the squad gel as quickly as possible.
Paddy Dewhirst completes the Ayr trio at full-back, and there are also three Glasgow Hawks in the three-quarter line. Callum McLelland of Edinburgh is at stand-off and is partnered by Marr scrum-half Kaleem Barreto, who has excelled in adversity in his club’s first season in the BT Premiership.
In the pack, Edinburgh Accies props Shaun Gunn and Finlay Richardson pack down either side of the skipper, while Devante Onajaife of Northampton starts at No 8. Nathan McBeth of South Africa’s Lions is among the front-row replacements.
“The squad have trained well this week and are looking forward to the fixture,” head coach Stevie Scott said. “We’ll travel to Colywn Bay with the right mind set and intensity. We know Wales are an experienced and physical outfit, but I’ve got no doubt that if we match their levels of desire, and show a real grit and determination, then we’ll be able to compete.”
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Wales coach Jason Strange has been able to call upon a more seasoned group of players, with seven of his starting line-up having represented the 20s last year. “We’ve got a lot of promising youngsters in there, many of them still eligible for U18s,” he said. “But we had a very young squad last season too, which means we can benefit from the return of players like Ben Jones and Rhys Carre. We saw what a lot of these new boys are capable of during their time with the U18s last year, so it’s up to them to step up and show us what they can do in the U20s shirt.”
Scotland U20 (v Wales U20 at Stadiwm Zip World, Colwyn Bay, Friday 8.15pm): P Dewhirst (Ayr); S Yawayawa, M New (both Glasgow Hawks), S McDowall (Ayr), K Rowe (Glasgow Hawks); C McLelland (Edinburgh), K Barreto (Marr); S Gunn (Edinburgh Accies), R Smith (Ayr), F Richardson (Edinburgh Accies), E Johnson (Racing 92), J Hodgson (Watsonians), A Erskine (Boroughmuir), G Graham (Hawick), D Onojaife (Northampton). Substitutes: B Clements (Ealing), N McBeth (Lions), M Walker (Strathallan), H Butler (Hartpury), R Darge (Melrose), C Chapman (Gloucester), R Thompson, R McMichael (both Glasgow Hawks).
Wales U20: C Evans (Ospreys); J Goodchild (Dragons), C Baldwin (Scarlets), C Carson (Ospreys), R Conbeer (Scarlets); B Jones (Cardiff), H Morgan (Ospreys); R Carre, I Harris (both Cardiff), S Wainwright (RGC), J Pope (Bridgend), M Williams (Dragons), T Reffell (Leicester), D Davies (Scarlets), T Basham (Dragons). Substitutes: D Lake (Ospreys), J Reynolds (Dragons), R Henry (Ospreys), M Jones (Scarlets), M Morris (Ospreys), D Babos (Dragons), B Thomas (Cardiff), Tommy Rogers (Scarlets).