Scotland U20s announce squad for World Rugby Trophy

Ayrshire Bulls' Ben Afshar joins Boroughmuir Bears' Liam McConnell as co-captain of the 28-man group for the tournament in Kenya

Scotland's Ben Afshar carries under pressure from two English forwards. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ben Afshar in action for Scotland U20s against England. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

LIAM McConnell and Ben Afshar have been named co-captains of the 28-man Scotland squad to compete in the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy in Kenya next month. Boroughmuir Bears flanker McConnell skippered the side in this year’s age-group Six Nations, while Ayrshire Bulls scrum-half Afshar, who led the team in the recent friendly win against Spain, takes over from the injured Duncan Munn.

Head coach Kenny Murray, whose squad comprises 16 forwards and 12 backs, said: “After our preparation match against Spain U20 last weekend, we are looking forward to heading to Nairobi in a couple of weeks’ time. “We were happy with many elements of play during that match but it also highlighted what we must work on if we want to be successful in the World Rugby U20 Trophy.

“We’ve been able to name a strong squad ahead of the tournament next month, with some familiar faces people will have seen during the Under-20 Six Nations and some new guys who earned their first caps in Spain last weekend. With Duncan Munn out through injury, we’ve chosen Ben Afshar to join Liam as co-captain. Ben impressed us when he took on this role in Spain, and along with Liam, we think they make a strong pair to lead the team.

“This tournament is a massive test for the squad. Not only does Kenya provide us with some unfamiliar environmental factors – like altitude and heat – but we will also be up against some very strong teams, all hungry for winning the title and promotion to the Championship.”

Scotland are in Pool A of the World Trophy along with Zimbabwe, the United States and Uruguay. Pool B consists of Hong Kong, Kenya, Samoa and Spain.

The play-off round will see the teams which finished in the same position in their pools meet to determine a final placing – fourth v fourth and so on. The winners of the final match, between the teams that topped their pools, will be promoted to the World Rugby Championship, the top level of the global age-group competition, which is currently under way in South Africa. Scotland were relegated from the Championship after finishing bottom in 2019, the last time the event was held.

Ayrshire Bulls stand-off Richie Simpson has missed out on the squad after sustaining a head injury against Spain. He is now going through his return-to-play protocols. Munn could still be called up if he completes his recovery from a knee injury, but only if a current squad member has to drop out through injury.

Scotland Under-20 squad:

Forwards: Jerry Blyth-Lafferty (Boroughmuir Bears/Edinburgh Rugby), Rudi Brown (Southern Knights), Craig Davidson (Watsonians), Robbie Deans (Watsonians/Edinburgh Rugby), Sam Derrick (Southern Knights), Finn Duraj (Watsonians), Eddie Erskine (Bath Rugby/Bath University), Ruaraidh Hart (Stirling Wolves/Glasgow Warriors), Liam McConnell (Boroughmuir Bears/Edinburgh Rugby, co-captain), Ollie Minnis (Hartpury University), Jonny Morris (Watsonians/Glasgow Warriors), Callum Norrie (Stirling Wolves/Glasgow Warriors), Jake Parkinson (Ealing Trailfinders),  Jonny Smith (Harlequins), Max Surry (Cardiff Met University), Corey Tait (Boroughmuir Bears).

Backs: Ben Afshar (Ayrshire Bulls, co-captain), Finlay Burgess (Stirling Wolves/Edinburgh Rugby), Finn Douglas (Southern Knights/Edinburgh Rugby), Geordie Gwynn (Ealing Trailfinders), Logan Jarvie (Stirling Wolves/Glasgow Warriors), Dan King (Heriot’s Rugby), Andrew McLean (Boroughmuir Bears), Hector Patterson (Watsonians/Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Reid (Watsonians), Ben Salmon (Stirling Wolves/Glasgow Warriors), Findlay Thomson (Watsonians), Kerr Yule (Ayrshire Bulls/Glasgow Warriors).

Fixtures (all times BST):

Sat 15 July: Scotland v Zimbabwe (8am)

Thurs 20: Scotland v Canada (2pm)

Tues 25:  Scotland v Uruguay (5pm)

Sun 30: Play-off round (final is at 2pm)

About Stuart Bathgate 1431 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

11 Comments

  1. Scotlands U20’s games are lost up front. We will lose because we don’t have the ‘grunt up top’. In each of the last 9 games under Murrays guidance we have been trounced in th scrum, no if or buts we have quite plainly been abysmal. The refusal to pick forwards who can carry, tackle and be dominant in the scrum has cost us dearly and the steadfast refusal to make changes just smacks of stupidity or more worryingly a complete understanding of rugby works. Look at how the lrish beat the Kiwis, forward power. Yet Murray and it has to be said Pringle have picked possibly the weakest set of props available to them. No coincidence they come from Watsonions and b’muir all be it their second teams. We have bigger stronger more technically gifted props who can carry, tackle and be dominant in the scrum sitting at home scratching their head thinking what the hell is going on here. I get the Scottish approach to the game is all about fast quick handling rugby, but as Mike Tyson said everybody has a plan until they get punched in the nose. Our nose punchers are sitting at home thinking wtf. At U20’s its not about development its about winning.

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  2. Italy u20s just beat SA and Georgia just beat Argentina so the SRU need to get a grip. There’s no way our dominance over Italy will continue – even if Benetton and Zebre remain a bit of a shambles. These boys will come through with total vindication they are better than us and we could be in real trouble.

    • Bennetton aren’t really a shambles are they? Eight wins out of eighteen in the URC and they finished above Edinburgh.

      • Hmm not sure I agree. Edinburgh had a dumpster fire of a season and won two fewer games. Benetton have a strong squad but are woefully inconsistent, they seem to have an issue with building on whatever intermittent success they have. Either way finishing with more losses than wins in the bottom half of a tournament whose welsh teams have deathspiralled into financial meltdown doesn’t suggest to me an outfit making the most a talented playing group. Talented youngsters are now pouring out of the ages grade groups but this hasn’t translated into better results at pro-team level. From what I’ve read the environment at the pro-teams means talent stagnates at this level but let’s face it, expectations remain at rock bottom even for Benetton.

      • By that definition FF you could describe all but four or five of the teams in the league a shambles. Think we will have to agree to disagree.

  3. It says it all that when the world’s best Under 20s – including the likes of Italy, Japan, Fiji and Georgia – are slugging it out for major honours, the world’s fifth-ranked team is sending its next generation to a rugby outpost in Africa to compete against the likes of Zimbabwe, Uruguay and Canada. And in a world where a victory against Spain is seen as ‘morale-boosting’. It is utterly shameful – and it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say it.

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  4. So although it is said to be a ‘strong squad’ the level of attrition in the game is shown in the number of players unavailable through injury. I think we can say that Duncan Munn, Richie Simpson, Ali Rogers, and Harris McLeod would all have been in the squad but for injury. Jake Spurway and Kerr Johnston were both in the squad for the warm up v Spain so they may be injured as well.
    Andy McLean is clearly the first choice 10 in this squad but who is his back up?
    Both Harris Rutherford and Luke Townsend were in the 6 nations squad, so one wonders if they are both injured now as well since they would be obvious back ups at 10. It is good to see Matt Reid’s name after he missed a fair amount of rugby through injury in the last two seasons, but his inclusion again suggests Will Robinson, A Caqusau, and Ben Evans who all appeared in the 6 nations in the back three, may be injured now.

    • Three top quality scrum halves suggests that one of them may be about to fit in at 10?

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    • Townsend was parachuted in from nowhere last year .only had 2games for Melrose in Nat 1
      (pressure from somewhere higher up maybe) .

      You should be picked on ability not who you are from certain connections
      Clearly has been found wanting and has now been cast aside .
      Not the first time this scenario has happened

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      • Connections help for sure. At the same time this was happening, the top try scorer for one of the Prem sides (an 18 year old back 3 player) wasn’t even getting invited into the academy set-up. Some puzzling decisions for sure.

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