NIKKI WALKER is back coaching the Scotland Under-20s squad after being cleared of any involvement in the the late-night incident in Wales last month which resulted in a member of the age-grade side’s medical support team being hospitalised and a local man being arrested under suspicion of ‘wounding’.
The backs coach was one of several members of the Under-20s side’s management team suspended while the SRU conducted an internal investigation into the incident which occurred at 3.20am in the north Wales town of Llandudno, less than 36 hours before the team’s opening Six Nations match.
“The investigation is ongoing, but his [Walker’s] part is done and he is back with the team so that is good,” said head coach Stevie Scott, before confirming that defence coach Ben Fisher has not yet returned to the fold.
“He [Fisher] is not back – his part is still ongoing. It is just Nikki who has come back on the coaching side of it,” Scott stated. Team manager Andy Miller is also still suspended.
An SRU spokesman declined to provide any more detail other than to state that there is an appeals process now in motion involving certain members of the suspended group.
Peter Murchie took over as backs coach during Walker’s suspension, and the former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland full-back – who will be head coach at Ayr next season – is being kept on as a specialist skills coach.
“Obviously, Nikki will come back in and look after the backs, but Pete will continue to do what he was doing before, coming in one day a week and working on high-ball catching and stuff like that,” explained Scott.
Given that the Under-20s confounded all expectations to defeat England during Walker’s suspension, the former Hawick and Scotland winger now has a lot to live up to – although Scott did gleefully point out that it was his own area of expertise which laid the platform for that remarkable result.
“I was winding him up all week about coming back, saying that with the forwards scoring all the tries we need the backs to get in on the act,” chuckled the former international hooker.
Up for Dublin
Regardless of where the scores are coming from, the team heave earned the right to approach this Friday night’s game with some swagger, having bounced back from two heavy defeats to Wales and France to then topple the tournament favourites.
“You always remember your time with the age grade squads. I still have my Under-21s jersey and you sometimes take for granted what it means to these kids to beat England at this level,” agreed Scott. “They will remember it for years to come and when they meet each other in 20 years’ time or whatever they will still talk about that game.”
“It was a big result, but we need to take that belief to Ireland and back that performance up. That is the challenge now. That is what we have been hammering home all this week.”
Scott added that he believes Ireland will present an even tougher challenge than England.
“That is the way I look at it. We are on the road and Ireland won’t underestimate us after the win. They won’t take us lightly at all. They have probably looked at the England game and they will see where our strengths are.”
“Paul O’Connell works with them so I am sure he will be working on things like driving lineouts and hammering them hard in that area because we were strong there in the last game.”
“It is a game we are looking forward to, I think we need to get back to playing again and keep improving.”
“We need to have things up our sleeve, Ireland will have analysed the game against England so we will have to make tweaks to catch them out.”
“I have challenged them this week. We know we can do it and we showed that against England, but now we have to back that up. We do lots of good things in training and we are improving, but the big thing is having consistency.”
The young Scots will be without centre Callum McLelland, a recent rugby league convert and poster-boy for the SRU’s vaunted SQ scheme, who is concussed; while flanker Guy Graham is struggling with a shoulder knock and is touch-and-go for the trip to Dublin.