Scotland squad return from Six Nations Under-18 Festival with heads held high

Ross Miller's side defeated Italy and were competitive against superpowers France and England

Scotland Under-18s were competitive in all three matches during there Six Nations Festival campaign. Image: ©INPHO/Tom Maher
Scotland Under-18s were competitive in all three matches during there Six Nations Festival campaign. Image: ©INPHO/Tom Maher

THE Scotland squad have returned from the Six Nations Under-18 Festival at the French National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis near Paris with heads held high after a strong showing in the Easter tournament.

The young Scots finished with one win from three matches with a victory over Italy and defeats to the two unbeaten sides, France and England. But, of course, results and scorelines do not reveal the complete picture and in particular Scotland’s excellent performance in the final round game against England which they lost narrowly by 15-18 in a match of fine margins.

Scotland’s head coach, Ross Miller, while disappointed at losing out to England, is realistic about about participation in this Festival. “The reason for coming here is to develop these guys,” he said. “I’m proud of how the guys have developed in what was a very intense competition [three matches over eight days].  They improved their performance in each game. They will all be the better for taking part. What is needed now is careful transitioning to the next stage.”

Under-19 international games, perhaps?


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Certainly, the final game against England showed that there was little between the two teams and given the resources south of the Border the Scots can justifiably feel that they stepped up to the mark considerably in taking on their neighbours with such purpose.

They may have lost to England but the Scots achieved a bigger margin of victory over Italy (31-17) than did England (28-21). Where Scotland perhaps slipped a bit was in the first half against France when they trailed 27-0 and looked to be heading for a catastrophic scoreline. But they then defied the odds by showing immense character in the second half to outscore the French by two tries to one and in doing so were able to take much from that game.

In terms of personnel the already elite designated players, Liam McConnell and Tom Currie, were immense and look to have bright futures in rugby but there were others who took their chance to flag up their talent. Miller points to the likes of second row, Euan McVie, a pupil at Trinity Academy, as a success story: “He’s worked incredibly hard and has the appetite to kick on”.

Another to feature prominently in the game against England was the Boroughmuir front row Jerry Blyth-Lafferty, a pupil at Firhill High School: “Jerry was selected as both a hooker and a loose-head prop and that flexibility will be good for him. He did really well.”

Prominent too was the Stewart’s-Melville College hooker, Elliot Young, whose pace around the pitch was a huge asset to the Scots.

 

Behind the scrum, Scotland were unfortunate to lose the Watson’s College full=back Jack Brown through injury but that gave more game time for the Dumfries Saints player Euan Muirhead. In the event, Muirhead showed his potential and should continue to develop through training with he Ayrshire Bulls Super6 squad.

Another player forced to miss the game against England was the Melrose Wasps stand-off, Luke Townsend, who sustained a hand injury following the game against France. That put pressure on the Robert Gordon’s College No 10, Andrew McLean, but the Aberdonian, who was short of game time going into the tournament, posted a confident performance against England.

Of the younger players in the squad, the St Aloysius College centre John Ventisei was hugely impressive and will surely be an important player when he returns next year. The other players from the current squad eligible to play next year are full-back Jack Brown, the Jed Thistle scrum-half Hector Patterson and the West of Scotland centre Kerr Yule.

The task for Scotland’s age-grade top brass now is not only to maintain the development of this present under-18 squad but to keep close tabs on those player who just missed out on selection as well as those who mature slightly later than their peers.

Scotland cannot afford to miss talent and this Six Nations Festival in France shows that clever coaching, correct talent identification and taking a risk on players whose potential has been spotted but who are perhaps not ready-made products, can pay-off.

Six Nations under-18 Festival Results:

  • Round 1.  Italy 17 Scotland 31, Wales 14 England 33, France 28 Ireland 23
  • Round 2. France 32 Scotland 10, Ireland 46 Wales 26, Italy 21 England 28
  • Round 3. Italy 14 Ireland 40, England 18 Scotland 15, France 66 Wales 21

Scotland come desperately close to toppling unbeaten England in Six Nations Under-18 Festival 

About Alan Lorimer 249 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

11 Comments

  1. Given the performances of the West of Scotland FC u18 squad this season it was surprising to see that only one player featured (minimal playing time) in the Scotland u18 squad. Progressed against the best from the Borders and lost at the death against Boroughmuir in the Scottish Cup Final, yet no player good enough to get more than a token couple of minutes for the National side? Doesn’t add up…

    • They have a lot of promising under17s – expect better representation for West next year.

      • West should certainly be better represented next season, especially given that the majority of the u18 Cup Final squad will still be eligible for u18 level. Under represented this season though, several of the lads would have slotted in comfortably.

    • I don’t think there is any big conspiracy. The squad was well spread out over a number of clubs and schools, with no club/school having any more than 2 players. Boroughmuir, Stew Mel, Merchie and Melrose had two each. Maybe West should have had 2 rather than 1.

    • Please note,
      West of Scotland U18s are “under 18 on September 1st”.
      Scotland U18 is “under 18 on January 1st”.

      Roughly, the oldest/best third of the WoS team will be too old!

      When watching Club U18 rugby, about a third of the players are too old for representative teams.

      Still waiting for someone to give a clear benefit of the SRU using Sept-1 rather than Jan-1 in Scotland…

  2. Not sure how England approach this Festival, with their huge playing resources, but some numbers comparing England’s Festival squad to their March 2022 international matches v France and Wales.

    – France U18 v England – 5/3/2022 [28-5]
    – England U18 v Wales – 20/3/2022 [37-20]
    – U18 Festival – April 2022

    England’s Festival squad size = 26
    of whom played previously:
    v France and/or Wales = 14
    v neither = 12 (NEW to squad)

    Not at Festival and played previously:
    v France and/or Wales = 16

    So total England players used v France/Wales and at Festival = 42

    Some squad rotation it appears – how they prioritise the fixtures only the England coaches know.

    But from the England U18 team that beat Wales (at the end of March) 13 players did not attend the Festival, including the starting 2,3,4,6,9,10,12,14,15!

    If only we had that many players to choose from.

    • England had to adjust their squad based off age bandings of who is eligible to play in the U18 six nations.

      • I don’t believe so, unless you can show England’s March U18 internationals used a non-standard cut-off date.

        The World Rugby regulations for U18/U20 internationals always use “January 1” as the cut off, so this will have been the same for England’s March internationals as for the Festival.

        https://u20.sixnationsrugby.com/2022/04/07/preview-six-nations-under-18s-mens-festival/
        “All players must have been born after January 1, 2004, to be eligible”

        Where England are affected is that their pupils stay at school about 6 months longer than in Scotland, so their oldest 4 months worth of pupils have never been eligible for U18 internationals.

        Weirdly the SRU use “September 1” for all our internal U18 matches, which then fails to match both the “January 1” for internationals, or the Scottish School year cut-off date (Jan/Feb).

        Still waiting for someone to give a clear benefit of the SRU using Sept-1 rather than Jan-1 in Scotland…

    • It wasn’t really a case of asking your opinion on the matter. I can confirm England fielded players in their warm up matches who were then ineligible to play in the six-nations.

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