U20 6N: Young Scots ready for French power after positive Welsh experience

The young Scots face their French counterparts at Broadwood Stadium on Friday night

Rugby League convert Callum McLelland is one player head coach Stevie Scott believes will benefit enormously from the Under-20s programme.
Rugby League convert Callum McLelland is one player head coach Stevie Scott believes will benefit enormously from the Under-20s programme. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND UNDER-20s head coach Stevie Scott says that his team have drawn confidence from last Friday’s match against Wales, despite the fact his side conceded five unanswered tries in a 36-3 defeat.

“All the chat after the game and the general feeling was not too bad. We had loads of pressure in the first 20 minutes, our maul was causing them problems and speaking to their coach they felt they were under the pump at that time,” said Scott.

“The big thing for us was not taking chances. The score didn’t reflect the game really. We were well in that game until 60 minutes, it was 19-3 and if we had got the next score it could have been a different story.”

“We made mistakes and there are things we need to work on ahead of this weekend. If we get these things fixed then we can go into the weekend with a bit of confidence again.”

“Things like the lineout and mistakes if defence are fixable.”

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The young Scots face their French counterparts at Broadwood Stadium on Friday night [kick-off: 7.45pm], and Scott knows his team – in which centre Stafford McDowall, scrum-half Kaleem Barreto [both Glasgow Warriors] and number eight Devante Onojaife [Northampton Saints] are the only players with frontline professional experience, with three appearances off the bench and a grand total of 28 minutes between them – face a huge test of ability and courage.

“They [the French squad] are all connected to pro clubs so a big physical challenge comes with that,” said Scott. “They are big, powerful and if you allow any age-grade international team to play then they will play, so the important thing for us is to pressurise them. If we give them space then they will be able to cut loose and that is a big threat.”

While a 33-point defeat should never be a cause for celebration, Scott pointed out that this year’s side lost to Wales by a similar margin [34-65] at home, then went on to achieve a highest ever fifth place finish in the Under-20 World Championship in Georgia during the summer.

“Since they [the current squad] came in two camps ago and then took a beating against the Club XV they have been learning in every training session,” he said. “When they come into meeting rooms and stuff they are chatting a lot more and these young guys are like sponges, they want to learn as much as they can.”

“You saw last season, the Under-20s developed game on game and did well at the World Cup. These guys have not been exposed to this level much before so when they get four or five games under their belts they will get better.”

Stand-off Callum McLelland, recruited from Castleford Tigers Rugby League team as part of Scottish Rugby’s highly self-publicised SQ [Scottish Qualified] programme, is one individual in particular who Scott believes will develop enormously as a player through being involved with the Under-20s set-up this year.

“As a head coach, putting him in at 10 with his inexperience, people will have seen it as a gamble and quite a risky gamble, but Callum will develop with every game that he plays and people need to understand it will be a rocky road with ups and downs, but it is one we need to do down,” he explained.

“There is no doubt that he is a talent and he is a big part of this team. His kicking from hand was excellent, he will continue to improve game on game.”

“Before this he had only played 20 minutes [in senior rugby union] for Hawick off the bench and that is the exciting thing about this group, they are only going to get better. This group will improve for sure.”

“It has been a big challenge for him [to make the change from rugby league], but what has impressed me the most is that he is a clever guy who has clearly studied rugby union and how it is played, and for me that will be a big factor in him coming through and progressing quickly.”

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About David Barnes 3817 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.