SCOTLAND Under-20s coach Stevie Scott is confident that his squad have learned a lot from last week’s heavy defeat by a Club XV, and can give a good account of themselves against their Welsh counterparts on Friday provided they put those lessons into practice.
Scott expects the match in Colwyn Bay to be a tough test for his players against opponents who boast far more experience at this level. But he believes that the 41-7 loss has been invaluable preparation, particularly when it comes to reaching the level of physicality they will need to compete against Wales.
“They have got experience,” the head coach said of a Welsh side expected to include as many as 10 players who took part in last year’s Under-20s Six Nations. His own matchday squad, to be announced today, is likely to have no more than three or four from the 2017 campaign. “Most of their players played in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at the weekend, so their level of competition is quite strong – they played against full-time pros. If we weight that up against the Scottish Premiership, where does that sit in terms of performances and physicality?
“Ten of these boys have played in the World Cup and in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, so let’s not beat about the bush, it’s going to be a tough game for us. But it’s a game that, as long as we go down there and manage to stay in the game, realistically we can get a performance.
“If the game gets away from us like it did in the club game, it’s quite hard when you’ve not got the experience. So our thing is to stay in the game as long as we can.
“The club game was definitely beneficial,” Scott continued. “We needed to find out where we were. It was a starting point for us. There are quite a few changes from the squad last year: we had an experienced squad last year, so we needed to find out where the boys were.
“Aspects of the game were positive, but there were some aspects that we need to work on. It gives us a baseline for where we are, and it gives us a focus for this week for training. That was a pretty physical battle against a good Club XV, and Wales will be physical as well.
“Every team will have the same preparation time as us, we just need to make sure the boys are prepared. There’s no doubt we have improved in training, since we got them two camps ago to where they are today. We’re certainly moving this team forward, and they’ll develop and get experience as we go along.”
Given that so many of his squad are rookies at this level, Scott is wisely refusing to announce publicly a target for the number of wins he thinks they can achieve. Much, it seems, will depend on precisely how quickly they learn what it takes to compete at international level.
“We want to look at performance. We’ll take one game at a time and keep building on that performance. There’s a development side of it – the 20s are a development team – but there’s an aspect of winning as well.
“There’s a lot of development as well, and we’ve seen in previous Six Nations that the 20s have got better as they went, and when they went to the World Cup a lot of these players were up to speed by that point.
“A lot of these players have probably not experienced playing at this level. So we look at each game, and hopefully they’ll learn and move on to the next again game.”