Super Series: Stirling Wolves rip Future XV apart again

Age-grade side hammered by 12 tries to nil in a performance which will reignite debate about Scottish Rugby's elite player development programme

Stirling Wolves inflicted another big defeat on the FOSROC Future XV. Image: Bryan Robertson
Stirling Wolves inflicted another big defeat on the FOSROC Future XV. Image: Bryan Robertson

Stilring Wolves 78

Future XV 0

LEWIS STUART @ Bridgehaugh

FOR he second time in just a few months Stirling showed the depth of problems in the Scottish development system as they put the Future XV to the sword. The August game resulted in 14 tries and 92 points so you might be fooled into thinking conceding 12 was a slight improvement, but you’d be wrong.

This was the Wolves on the rampage and though the youngsters of the Future XV did put in occasional flourishes and even threatened a meaningful break, the reality was that they never got a clear scoring chance and the final margin was the same. There were 13 changes in the starting team from the last game and 16 changes in the 23, but the result was worryingly similar

It leaves a lot of work for Scott Forrest, the co-head coach to do as he tries to mend the damage this did and he admitted that after a positive build-up, he was shocked by how quickly and thoroughly it had gone wrong.

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“We are disappointed, we didn’t see that coming,” he said. “We had academy players back and players who had gone well in pre-season training, so we thought we would be better.

“Credit to Stirling, they were very good, better than in the first game, but we were far too easy to score against, particularly in the first half. We need to develop a hard edge, which we just didn’t have in defence. We know this is a big challenge for us in being able to match the physicality of these teams but many of these players are going to be playing against the likes of Ireland and France [in the Under 20s Six Nations] and they are going to be even more physical.

“This is the first time I’ve had a go at them saying it was not good enough in terms of the standards we set ourselves. All these players are ones who want to get into the Under-20s, want to get into the pro game, so they need to be better.”

The issue from a Scottish rugby point of view is that a few months after the Under 20s failed to make it back to the top flight of the Junior World Championship and days after the senior side got booted out of the Rugby World Cup, this was a stark reminder of how bare the cupboard is when it comes to replacing players approaching retirement.

The Future XV had been able to select from something close to their strongest possible side. Last time, the Under=20 players were away on international duty, this time many of them were available. Surely that should have made them more competitive.

For the first eight minutes, that is exactly how it played out. The Futures XV even had a couple of visits to the home half and a couple of crunching tackles promised a stiff defensive effort.

That was as good as it got, though. Stirling won a line-out, Marcus Holden, the centre, barged through and when the ball was recycled quickly. Craig Jackson at fly-half spotted the defence out of position and his low kick though gave Euan Cunningham, the full-back, the opening try on his return to his home town club.

That opened the floodgates. The futures were driven off their scrum ball and Ross McKnight, the wing, got the ball on the blind side and simply ran though anything resembling a tackle to score.

A simple break from Mike Heron on the other wing was carried on by Davey, who’s offload put Jackson in for try number three.

The bonus point was almost as quick coming with Ed Hadsell, the No 8, breaking clear and feeding MacKnight before the wing completed his hat trick with another power canter down the wing.

To their credit, the Future XV did wrestle things round again, showing a bit of grit as they stopped the rot for a while – to be precise until McKnight got the ball in a bit of space again and again nobody could tackle him in full fight as he claimed his fourth try with half-time looming.


Not that the break changed things. The second half was barely under way when a simple backs move put Davey through a gap and his offload put KcKnight in for his fifth before he was taken off to recover from the heady heights of his scoring feat.

It slowed the pace Stirling were rattling in the scores but didn’t stem the flow. Reyner Kennedy, the hooker, forced his way over from short range and Hadsell picked a perfect line off Jackson to power in for the next try.

Heron crossed for two more, and replacement scrum-half Ben Afshar got another to bring up a round dozen tries.

It was satisfaction all round for the home side, who were able to haul key players off for a rest ahead of playing Heriot’s back at Bridgehaugh on Wednesday.

“We knew we had to be physical and we knew we had to be accurate,” said Eddie Pollock, their head coach. “The attitude and the way they played in the first half was outstanding. The scrum and the maul went well, that opened up a lot of space elsewhere because they had to work so hard to control that.

“We were very clever about working out how to attack the defence from that situation. We planned for that and I was delighted with the accuracy they delivered. We have four games in the next 14 days, luckily three of them at home, so this will be the defining period in our season. We are relishing the way things are, we have a first squad with just about everyone available.”


Teams –

Stirling Wolves: E Cunningham; M Heron, R Southern, M Holden (C Jardine, 51, C Scott, 56), R McKnight (S Rockley, 51); C Jackson, E Davey (B Afshar, 51); G Breese (L Quarm, 58), R Kennedy (S Rainey, 58) (C), L Skinner (M Ogunlaja, 56), H Ferguson (T Smith, 62), J Pow, S MacDonald, E Timpson, E Hasdell.

Future XV: J Hocking; F Douglas, K Johnston (C Ferrie, 50), K Yule (I Coates, 60), A Caqusau; M Urwin, H Paterson (F Burgess, 56); R Deans (J Blyth-Lafferty, 24), M Brogan (T Banatvala, 33), C Norrie (O Blyth-Lafferty, 58), C Nolan (R Burkę, 41), R Hart, T Currie (C), F Douglas, J Morris (F Duraj, 56).

Referee: Hollie Davidson


Scorers –

Stirling Wolves: Tries: Cunningham, McKnight 5, Jackson, Kennedy, Hadsell, Herron 2, Afshar; Cons: Holden 4, Jackson 5.

Future XV: No scorers

Scent sequence (Stirling Wolves first): 5-0; 10-0; 15-0; 22-0; 29-0; 34-0; 36-0 (h-t) 41-0; 43-0; 48-0; 50-0; 55-0; 57-0; 62-0; 64-0; 69-0; 71-0; 76-0; 78-0.


Player-of-the-Match: No real contest here, Step forward Ross McKnight. You simply can’t overlook a player who scores a hat-trick in 12 minutes and finishes with five tries before being taken off with 20 minutes still to go in an act of mercy.

Talking point: In their early games, the Future XV were so weakened by other demands that you couldn’t read too much into their performances. This was much more worrying. Not far off a full strength side, many will be the core of the Under-20s squad in the New Year, but they still got thrashed. The only saving grace is that they haven’t played together much but the pressure is on for them to get better quickly.

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About Lewis Stuart 73 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.


  1. In the meantime, Scotland U20 seems to have refused to take part in the Rugby Europe U20 Championship, World Rugby Trophy qualifier…

    • Possibly don’t have the budget to play in Rugby Europe competitions (in addition to everything else)? Surely it can’t because the SRU think Rugby Europe competitions aren’t worthwhile? Some good sides there, the best would certainly be a match for Scotland. A couple of lads that won the Rugby Europe u18’s 7’s title with France in 2021 were part of the French squad that won the U20 World Cup this year. Not sure why Scotland don’t compete, it’s good enough for France and Ireland.

      • If SRU can’t afford to play Rugby Europe U20 how will Scotland be allowed to play U20 Trophy? It is the way teams qualify. And if they qualify as hosts SRU can’t claim they do not enter because of a lack of budget since Trophy is a very unprofitable competition.

  2. Please just stop this nonsense before someone gets seriously injured. These young players deserve so much better.

    • We all know how interested Dodson and his mates are in the welfare of their players. Ask the Cattigan family.

      Now if their pay cheques were in danger then we’d see some action.

  3. Just a badly thought out way of attempting to fast track young players.

    As many have suggested …it’s obvious to most people that you need to introduce young players in a more graduated way. This current chosen method needs to be stopped asap..before it actually damages confidence of players.

    A draft system like NFL, – the $$$$M obviously, would work well I think.

  4. How can you point the finger at the young lads when you have.
    Poor coaches with no experience.
    Forwards coach with no presence
    A backs coach who only played 7s
    No defensive coach
    No attack coach
    No home ground
    No structure for training in the week
    No regular game time
    New players from week -week
    No guidance from the pitch side
    No specific skill set training
    Now no confidence.

    Would Peter Horn not be better coaching the backs instead of running on with water for the national team?

    Just a thought.

    • No. Better boys were kicked out of academy rugby to make way for this team. They train with their respective academies 2/3 times a week. The front row both starters and subs were on the bench for Warriors and Edinburgh a two weeks ago. Times up on excuses for these guys they are just not good enough.

    • This is so true. Surely the futures is also for coaches of the future. Na just put them straight to the pro teams an make a job up for them. Then if they fail, then do the 20’s

  5. It also has to be remembered that there is a university set up. Edinburgh played last week against Loughborough 2’s who had 4 contracted premiership players in their team. There are guys playing at high level university rugby who are worth looking at.

  6. Rugby Fan….30+ year olds from outside of Scotland? Marcus Holden, Ross Jones….and who else?

  7. It doesn’t work. It’s essentially school boys playing against men. If they really want to use the super series to develop talent, then they should operate a draft system. Every season each club has to take on say 6 u20s, integrate them and they have to play a certain number of minutes.

    Whilst this doesn’t solve the earlier development problems for the players (as outlined in previous comments). It does integrate the players into a more experienced set up where they can grow and develop.

    Chucking all the possible/probable 20s together is going to help no one.

  8. Scrap the Futures team, decide that every Super 6 team must have at least 4 under 20s. Then they learn by playing and training alongside experienced players and in potentially winning teams. Then pick the U20s squad from this process for 6Ns.

    • Exactly Paul B, it’s just common sense. Anyone that has ever played a team sport knows how much you learn from playing with older/better players. The decision to ignore that and put all of the inexperienced boys together in the same side was stupidity.

  9. All the comments above are bang on. Lots of ex academy/regional players playing in Prem/Nat 1 not even being looked at. These Futures players are not getting any real game time and therefore not playing with maturer players and learning the skills of the trade. Please could the powers that be get people on the road and create a much bigger pool of youngsters and not just the same old favourites that have no desire to fight for their place. I’m not saying that the youngsters in the Prem or leagues below would put any more points on the board but they would create a bigger pool of players to choose from. This is a numbers game and the current set up is stifling numbers.

  10. Yet another absolute farce produced by the incompetent Dodson. How much longer before those with the necessary authority kick him and his cronies out and begin to save rugby in Scotland.

    Or are those with the necessary authority also more interested in their pay cheques than rugby?

  11. Until the SRU realise that the current Academy and youth pathway is not a productive model then nothing will change.
    Players are chosen at 15/16 mainly based on size or speed then ‘locked into a programme’ for the rest of their teens!!

    There has to be regular reviews of players standards and openings for young club players to enter the programme if they are showing ability.

    There are U20 players playing in the Premiership/Division 1 & 2 (possibly others) who deserve a chance.

    • I watched a teenage non-academy player completely outplay one of the current Futures players last season (in the same position), but nothing came of it. The player that is ‘locked into a programme’ keeps their place no matter what.

  12. The problem obviously comes before the U19 age group. I remember around 7/8 years ago the U20 side used to warm up by playing the Scottish Club Xv/Edinburgh A and hold their own against them. What has changed now?

  13. Last nite again showed the lack of top coaching the players are getting. Basic skills are so poor. It’s like the SRU an coaches of the futures don’t want to admit they have picked the wrongs players to back. How many times for example do players keep getting chances even though there’s no sign of improvement.

    • Not so sure on that as I’ve been watching them all through and they certainly have the skills, but that looked very much like scars from the last outing, every conceivable mistake was made constantly, they looked like a set of individuals, whereas they have looked like a team before now, Stirling ran at them with power and pace… and they wilted unfortunately, I’ll not blame players other than their personal skills, but that looked like an unprepared school team out there tonight.

    • I’m pretty confident that there are lads playing for Prem/Nat1 (maybe even further down) that are better than some of the lads that have been in the Academy set up for years. The problem is that the coaches don’t want to drop someone out that they’ve invested time and money in for years, as it would make them look bad. So, they stick with what they have and continue to lose and have glaring weaknesses. A fresh set of eyes and ideas needed, clearly the coaching set-up is failing, so why do they keep their jobs? Don’t they have Key Performance Indicators, like most businesses? They are clearly failing right now.

  14. What I watched tonight was the majority of under 20’s coming back and being lauded as right that’s the big boys back… and so it turned out it was just like the six nations u20’s a shambols, sluggish forwards meandering about, basic line-outs and scrums failure,backs that got in each other’s way constantly and wingers that can’t tackle their opposite man, and then most shocking of all when chasing down couldn’t catch up… what are they looking for in wingers ! Because the rest of the world looks for top pace and power. As the game wore on and the kids got ground in, you could see Stirling actually stop pushing in mauls. Can’t see how these results can do any good whatsoever. I am an interested party, and just want them to get through this with no injuries now. I await the next madcap scheme with some trepidation 🤔

    • Are there any teenage wingers in the Prem/Nat 1/Nat 2 that are quick, physical/aggressive and can tackle? I’d say yes, but it’s back to the issue of having to drop boys that have been in possession for several years – they won’t do it.

    • Out of curiosity I watched the recording of the game, it really was like men against boys. The tackling was shocking in general, Ross McKnight made it look like he was up against an u15 side. If that’s the best Scotland have it’s going to be a painful 6 Nations again.

  15. The most pertinent lesson from last night and the previous fixture is that it suggests that the governance of Scottish Rugby is clueless, [well in my opinion] on player development issues, Super6 and Future XV doesn’t sit as well as a good Club and District structure, as ever other views etc..
    It was all a bit like the School 1st XV turning out against an established ‘Old Boys’ XV and for those of you are not aware the fixture would normally be a ‘festive’ occasion in every sense: this was not.
    What benefit the Future XV players gained would be difficult to quantify: physically, particularly in the ¾’s they were obviously short of stature in comparison, it was much to the credit that the ‘Future XV’ tried to make a contest out of it. The handling and tackling at times was way short of par, the obvious pressure of the Stirling side being an obvious factor.
    This is not the way forward, I can’t help thinking that there has to be a better way for those future players to gain experience, and the best in my opinion is in a healthy Club environment where experienced players and coaching can nurture a talented player.
    As an aside much has been written on this platform about our departure from the RWC, personally I think there will be a bit more clarity when we see how Ireland handling the All Black’s this weekend, but one thing is for sure this ‘idea’ obviously drawn up on the back of an envelope and as much benefit as one of Baldrick’s ‘Cunning Plans’ ‘stuffing’ these lads into a one sided fixture, is not the way forward either for Players or Spectators.

  16. What a farce, it was clear from the start that the physical difference between the two sides was going to make it an uneven contest, and so it proved. A settled side against one that has multiple changes week by week and therefore no continuity. Players brought in from other Super 6 and Premiership teams just to fill gaps and therefore no continuity of selection. That showed up by the basic errors. Squint lineouts, dropped passes, forward passes and turnovers, tackles often missed, after promising moves.
    Don’t blame the players, they were giving great effort and never gave up.
    What is this doing for their confidence? Most of them have played in nearly all the games that they have lost in the last two seasons.
    What is the solution? Perhaps every Super 6 team should be required to field 4 Under 20 players in their starting line up with another one on the bench. This would mean 30 players were exposed to a higher standard, and they would learn playing alongside older, more experienced players. The question is are there 30 players in the age group that are good enough for this suggestion?

  17. I watched about 5 mins of the second half when it was only 50 odd. First time I’ve checked in on a match. Super it wasn’t!

    The physical difference between the two sides was obvious from the pictures. Hardly surprising given one is 19 and under and the other much more mature. What is rather troubling is that this wasn’t considered when this stupid idea was first mooted?

    If this is such a step up (and from the little I saw last night it wasn’t obvious to me that there was a difference to Prem rugby) then why would you expose players who aren’t at that level due to not playing sufficient rugby to get a beasting?

    To further this talking point of it’s a higher level. They are semi pro or part time to use the SR euphemism. You would expect fitness and conditioning to be higher. They have a full time coach for goodness sake. What else do they do outside of match day? Lots of time for video analysis and game plans not really open to club coaches. There is also the small matter of circa £1m put in by Scottish Rugby plus the equal funding the super sides contribute.

    It’s a numbers game. I estimate about 4000 active male senior players (playing more than one match!). To support a 250 player part time league and 100 player pro set up. France are estimated to have 100 times our player numbers. Hardly surprising they are going quite nicely at the moment.

    • Stirling players are not all “much more mature”, they have several 19 and 20 year olds who are just better and probably deserve pro contracts more than the Future XV lads. So much talent out there being overlooked.

      • I really don’t think it would be ridiculous to suggest that an u20 side could be put together from players out-with the Futures/Academy set-up that would at least give the Futures XV a good game, if not beat them. Plenty of teenagers are doing well in Prem/Nat1 squads, but are ignored as all focus is given to the same group of players that have failed again and again over the last 18 months.

      • As many have said on this thread those players are playing with a group of older players which will help them develop.

        The issue is playing a whole team of U20s. This is the result we can expect

  18. Seriously shocking exhibition of how inept our “Futures” and their coaches are. At least Kenny Murray turned up to watch the shitshow he’s creating. The sheer lack of physicality and skill that has led to a mind boggling run of defeats for both the Futures and our U20 international team was so apparent last night it was frightening furthermore watching some of the tackling its only a matter of time before one of these boys gets hurt.
    At U20’s international level our scrum, set piece and overall forward play has let us down over and over again yet Murray persisted with the same players rather than make changes. Last night they rolled out again, five U20’s internationals front rowers plus one on the Wolves side. Obviously they have learned nothing from their experience at international level, collectively they showed a lack of technique, power or skills of any kind, so much so that it was embarrassing to watch. nearly all of them are now to old to play U20’s but how they can be senior academy players and ear marked as future pros beggers belief.
    Its time the SRU swallowed some pride and pulled the team from the competition and come up with another plan because with the U20’s Six Nations not that far away this lot are clearly not good enough.

  19. That was brutal. Parachuting the Futures into the league has proved to be an epic fail. The current squad are victims of an ill thought through experiment and are on track for a wooden spoon at the up coming U20 Six Nations. Expect another rethink by those responsible for age group rugby.

  20. The Scrum tonight was absolutely awful, you’re meant to have the next best set of props who are in the pro academy learning of international/professional props and G Breese and L Skinner sent them to the cleaners. Super unsafe to say the least. You want to grow Scottish rugby, look at other players around the country not just in experienced 19-20yr olds. You’ve got so many props out there not getting chances to show their ability because the SRU are blinded by players who they believe should be ‘fast tracked’. Yes it may have worked in the past, but times have changed. You’ve got young props playing Prem/Nat 1 week in week out, who want to push to the next level… that’s the future. Boys who have real experience playing men’s rugby learning each week. Look at players that are playing men’s rugby give them opportunities to train with the pro sides. A Rogers, C Murphy, M Ogunlaja, 3 young talented props who have had previous/current experience playing men’s Prem/Nat 1 and S6, all who have been in the SRU Academy System and been left to make their own way in the game. That’s your futures right there, if the main goal is to improve the pro teams and the international team. Look at players that are getting real playing experience. As for the props that are involved with the futures, they need time to learn and that’s not just by throwing them in the deep end.
    To highlight a player who’s still got another year of 20s and been playing S6 for bears for the past two years. J Blyth Lafferty. Came on and tried to get some go forward for the team. Belongs in a better team with better players to really show his talent and work ethic.
    Scrap the futures, it’s a failed idea.

  21. The Futures squad appears to have made little progress over the last few months. I don’t fault the lads at all, the whole idea of playing inexperienced boys together, without seasoned campaigners beside them to learn from, has always been utterly baffling to me.

    SURELY another poor Six Nations campaign would force changes in the entire elite youth development pathway? i.e. a clear out of the administrators and many of the coaches that have been in place for years?

  22. This is absolutely atrocious. I wonder how malinder will try spin this. the super six or whatever it is now really isn’t fit for purpose. These boys would be better playing club rugby as it use to be.

    • The defeat doesn’t mean the Super Series doesn’t work. It’s fair to question the rationale of the Futures being in the competition – but you can’t use this to criticise the other six teams. Most matches are close, skill levels are high and conditioning is excellent. There is no doubt the quality of rugby in super series is higher than it ever was in the Premiership. It should be. There is a strong coaching network and S&C support. It has closed the gap to pro-rugby. Full pros don’t come into these games and dominate like they sometimes did in the past.

      • Was Super Six not set-up to close the gap on the pro game, with particular focus on bringing through the best young players for the national team? Well, many of the best young players just suffered another worrying defeat, with the u20 national side pretty much performing at Tier 2 level. In what way has Super 6/Series been successful? It has weakened the club game, to me that’s the most significant ‘achievement’.

      • Sorry but that’s just nonsense. If it was a higher level than the Prem then the players who have had to step in from Nat 1 and 2 to ensure fixtures were fulfilled would have looked totally out of place…but they didn’t at all. It’s an obvious failure on every possible metric. The harm that’s being done is enormous. The fact that a ‘Futures’ team was needed for a league that was supposed to be literally for young players shows what a disaster it’s been. The fact that so many 30+ yr olds from outside of Scotland being paid SRU money to try to win a trophy no one cares about is scandalous.


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