U18 Six Nations Festival: France deliver painful lesson to young Scots

Ross Miller's side a distant second in terms of skill levels, physicality and sheer rugby nous

France inflicted a heavy defeat on Scotland in round two of the U18 Six Nations Festival in Ireland. Image: Grigoriy Geniyevskiy
France inflicted a heavy defeat on Scotland in round two of the U18 Six Nations Festival in Ireland. Image: Grigoriy Geniyevskiy

France 50

Scotland  7

SCOTLAND suffered a morale-denting defeat in the second round of the Men’s Six Nations U18 Festival at the Energia Stadium in Dublin, after finishing second best by some margin to a France side playing total rugby that emphasised the difference in skill levels, physicality and sheer rugby nous between the two countries. 

Inevitably, this set-back will raise further questions about the structure of age-grade rugby in Scotland and, in turn, given the finite resources coming through and the ever rising standards being achieved in the other Six Nations countries, about the ability of the under-20s to compete strongly at international level.

The Scots came into this second round  game having performed reasonably well in their loss to Ireland last Saturday, but against France they were never allowed to play with the same freedom, such was Les Bleus’ pace in both attack and defence, their power play up front and their sheer skill with ball in hand.

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France oozed confidence throughout the game, playing front-foot rugby that in the end brought them eight tries, albeit aided by a Scotland side that seemed off the pace and which paid the price for tentative engagement in defence behind the scrum.  Scotland’s cause was also not helped by a red card shown to the Peebles loosehead prop Ben White in the last quarter for allegedly throwing a punch, but by that stage in the game the Scots were already trailing by a massive margin.

In defeat there were still several noteworthy performances, the pick of these from prop Jerry Blythe Lafferty, who is still an under-17 player, second-row Charlie Moss, hooker Seb Stephen and flanker Freddy Douglas. It was not a day., however, for Scotland’s backs, who were shut down by the French defence and who struggled to impose themselves on the game.

“France are a really good team, one of the top sides in the world at this level. This was a new level of speed and physicality for this group of players, but they will be the better for it,” observed Ross Miller, the Scotland under-18 head coach. “We probably conceded some scores too easily,” he added.

“Throughout the game we struggled to create tempo. Their line-speed was very good, so we found it difficult to hold on to possession. But overall we didn’t have enough ball. However, I thought our maul try was very good” suggested Miller, who now has four days in which to build back self-belief within his squad before facing Wales in the third and final round of the festival on Sunday. Wales lost 48-17 to Ireland in their second round game, significantly a much greater margin of defeat than Scotland experienced against the Irish.


France wasted little time before putting points on the board with a stylish try by full back Ugo Pacome barely two minutes into the game. A penalty try for taking down an unstoppable rolling maul added to the Scots’ agonies before tries by winger Johanne Wasserman and their  outstanding No 8 Elyjah Ibsaiene made it 26-0 for Les Bleus with the clock showing only 14 minutes played.

Scotland fared better in the second quarter and had a chance of a score when skipper Jack Brown chipped ahead only for the ball  to bounce over the dead-ball line. However, the slight gain in momentum was confirmed when the Scots drove a  line-out giving  Stephen his side’s only try, Brown adding the extras from wide out.

But no sooner had Scotland got themselves into the game than France made an immediate reply after gaining possession from the restart and ending with Les Bleus’ impressive Stade Toulousain centre Kalvin Gourgues gathering a kick ahead to score and convert for a 33-5 half time lead.

Gourgues then scored a wonderful individual try before Wasserman claimed his second, France signing off with yet another skilful score, this time  from replacement full back Xan Mousques to complete a sumptuous win.

Scotland U18:  J Brown CAPTAIN (George Watson’s College);  S Lewini (Queen Victoria School), J Ventisei (St Aloysius/GHA RFC), J Hocking (Edinburgh Rugby), F Watson (Biggar RFC);  I Coates (Merchiston Castle),  H Patterson (Hawick RFC);  K Ando (SC Frankfurt 1880/Sedbergh), S Stephen (Glenalmond College/Aberdeen Grammar RFC),  O Blyth-Lafferty (Boroughmuir RFC), B Godsell (Gloucester Academy/Marling), C Moss (Marlow Rugby/Shiplake College/Wasps), N Torkington (Stirling County RFC), F Douglas (Stewart’s Melville College), O Duncan (Edinburgh Academy). Replacements from: O McKenna (St Aloysius),  F Mcintosh (George Watson’s College), B White (Peebles RFC), F Wilson (Gala RFC), F Spurway (Glenalmond College), F Wood (George Heriot’s School), H Alderson (Stewart’s Melville College), M Urwin (St Aloysius), L McEwan-Peters (Yorkshire Academy/Wellington College), T Russell (Stewart’s Melville College), S Rockley (London Irish/Bishop Wand/London Irish Academy).

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About Alan Lorimer 366 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.


  1. The whole French system is geared up around skill set.
    From an early age they work on balance, footwork, unit skills & passing.
    They have great skills coaches who build their foundations for them to develop.
    We prefer to spend most of our time in the gym. Being able to bench press 100k & squat 150k didn’t do much good on Wednesday.
    Yes I get it that France have a huge pool of players but surly the players would enjoy the game more if they could catch, pass, run, & kick better.
    The culture needs to change, but we have been calling for this for 25years.
    Let’s live in hope.

    Metaman 🤞

  2. Registered rugby players in France 500k in Scotland 50 proportionate to population we actually doing better. That said they have more to chose from and a better established system one which crucially brings in lots of players from “blue collar” background for whom this is from day 1 in pathways a possible career choice not a medal trip to Murrayfield and a career in banking… Systemic changes are underway and will take time but simply the individual match ups in loose in terms of decision making, skill, power we lost again and again. BTW not an “alleged” punch. Caught on camera and regardless flagged in by neutral AR. Brainless cheap shot on a pinned player

  3. Our youth players will always be outplayed by nations whose AGLVs are more advanced at a younger age than ours. Our players don’t have the same years of experience playing the whole game as nations like France. It takes time to catch up and seems even our u20s are still disadvantaged by our very slow introduction to the game through our AGLVs. My son’s u14 team played a visiting French u14 team last Sunday. The French had to dilute their game to fit our AGLVs. For example, in France at u14 they play a fully contested lineout with lift and can rip the ball. What they are not permitted to do is crash ball, they must evade contact and cannot run straight into opposition players. You can clearly see the impact their more advanced AGLVs have on their game by u18, playing a far more skilful, mature game in comparison to the Scots players. Maybe it is time to challenge our young players more and look at how top level nations teach their youth players the game.

  4. Well this can’t be correct Milne n rest of the Dodson fan boys have told us all clearly that youth development is going well and doubters like me are just scumbags??!!! Surely we are now after decade n half of Dodson we are winning age RWC cos he’s said 2015 was our win on his watch…..surely him n the likes of Milne weren’t lying or more interested in their percentages from buying foreign players….

    • I don’t recall anyone calling you a scumbag. Maybe it’s your description of yourself?

  5. Well gosh it’s almost as if the Dodson apologists are completely fecking wrong about how to save Scottish rugby. Sure the usual suspects like Milne will be along soon to say that it is the place of Scots to play too wee too poor too stoopit n it’s what we really deserve…. meanwhile we are in real world…done….we cal keep buying SA players to prevent S6 relegation….but relegation is where we are going.

  6. I’m not sure it’s fair to say the whole back line underperformed, I’ll not argue 11-15 had forgettable games, but 9 +10 did their jobs as well as they could with the slow ponderous ball the forwards produced, on the rare occasion they didn’t surrender possession cheaply, through knock ons or balls ripped from them. Too much pressure and power made for slow ball if it came back at all ! Thankfully the scrum held very well and the lineout was better than the Ireland game, It was the loose that killed it for them, forwards in 1s and 2s whilst the French hunted in packs with great skill. And thoroughly deserved the margin of victory, time and again they broke weak tackles. Everyone knew the French game would be the toughest test. Now they need to regroup, for the winnable Welsh game. I would also say for me the coaches threw the backs to the lions, by picking no power players in the starting line up at all ?

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