U20s 6N: France see red twice but still too strong for Scotland

Hosts struggle to cope with Les Bleus pace, power and attacking sharpness as they suffer third consecutive defeat of this six Nations campaign

France's Esteban Capilla scores the first of his team's four tries against Scotland Under-20s. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
France's Esteban Capilla scores the first of his team's four tries against Scotland Under-20s. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Scotland 17

France 30

DAVID BARNES @ The DAM Health Stadium

THEY were reduced to 14-men after just 13 minutes of this match, then to 13 men in the 69th minute, and they were pretty indisciplined throughout with 15 penalties coughed up over the course of the whole 80 minutes, but France’s superior pace, power and attacking sharpness meant they still managed to emerge as comfortable winners over their less experienced opponents, who deserve credit for hanging in there to keep it respectable.

This was Scotland’s third defeat on the bounce in this Six Nations campaign and the most demoralising yet because they were never really in the contest despite playing the vast majority of the match with more players on the park. It is 23 months since Scotland tasted victory at this level, and they now face two tough away matches as they battle to avoid consecutive Six Nations whitewashes. Next up is Italy – who have already beaten England during this campaign – in a fortnight’s time, followed by Grand Slam chasing Ireland the following weekend.

“We were out-muscled, to be honest,” conceded Scotland head coach Kenny Murray afterwards. “We lost the physicality battle big time, and we couldn’t get our set-piece going – we weren’t accurate enough at times at the line-out and we couldn’t get any sort of parity at the scrums – so we couldn’t build any sort of pressure.

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“I’m disappointed with some of the collisions,” he continued. “They were very aggressive in their ball-carrying and there were times we just weren’t good enough at dealing with that. So, those are big parts of the game we need to look at and we need to be better at.”

Murray recently moved from an assistant coach role at Glasgow Warriors to become Scottish Rugby’s ‘Head of Player Transition’, with coaching the under-20s part of his new remit. If he didn’t appreciate the full extent of the challenge he has taken on before, he is in absolutely no doubt now how important it is to find ways of exposing this country’s best young players to performance-level rugby on a regular basis.

Too few of the 16 home-based players in this match-day squad have had enough regular game time at an appropriate level to be ready for this sort of challenge, which raises serious questions about what the Super6 tier of the Scottish club game was created for. The players are not being given a fair chance of being genuinely competitive.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the level those boys are playing over in France is much higher than most of our boys, so that’s something we need to continue to work on,” acknowledged Murray. “We need to keep pushing guys, whether it is Super6 and getting players more game time there … we could see tonight the physical difference was night and day.

“The boys did stick in, especially after half-time when France had that strong wind at their backs, and I thought the boys who came off the bench brought some real energy, so I’m really pleased with that impact.

“But it was a big learning for these guys. That will be the hardest game of rugby some of those guys have played in their life. Super6 is there to try to provide that higher level of performance opportunity, and while some guys played in it last year, I think a lot more will play in it this year, with the sprint series starting in April.”


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Scotland tried to lay down an early marker when they won a ruck penalty within kickable distance in the opening minute and opted for the corner. It didn’t come to anything, but the home team worked through the phases and when another French ruck indiscretion offered up a second bite at the cherry, captain Rhys Tait pointed at the sticks, and Robin Mc Lintock – a Frenchman with a Scottish grandfather – took the points.

France appeared mildly unsettled, with Jefferson Joseph fumbling a relatively simple kick collection a few minutes later, but once they clicked into gear they wasted little time in bullying their way back to parity with some heavy carrying pushing the Scots into conceding a not-rolling-away penalty in front of the posts, for stand-off Emile Dayral to kick points.

Dayral missed an opportunity to edge his team into the lead a few minutes later, with his shot at goal being caught up in the fierce wind, then France suffered what would have been a major setback in a tighter contest when Joseph was caught flat-footed and ended up colliding heads with Mc Lintock. It was ruled by referee Clara Munarini – cajoled by the TMO – to be a red-card offence. Player safety is, of course, absolutely paramount, and Mc Lintcok had to go for an HIA (he returned nine minutes later) but it is questionable whether Joseph even made a tackle, as opposed to being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The issue is whether referee’s should be judging the action or the outcome? Because in a fast-moving and complicated sport, those two things are not always the same.

France didn’t let the loss of their winger knock them off their stride, and they almost immediately scored an excellent length-of-the-park try, launched by a No 8 pick-up and offload from Théo Ntamack – the latest product of that august rugby gene – with Louis Le Brun, Emilien Gailleton (twice) and Enzo Reybier all producing pace, power and crisp handling, before Dayral threaded a grubber forward, which Esteban Capilla scooped ups and sprawled over the line.

Dayral failed with the conversion, but was on target with a penalty when a Scottish line-out overthrow prompted another sweeping French attack pulled Scotland apart, before Mikey Jones was penalised at a ruck in front of the posts, with half an hour played.

Despite being a man down, France were now totally dominant, and they claimed try number two through Robin Bellemand after another impressive demonstration of power and precision with ball in hand.

Scottish tacklers looked like mere speed bumps at this point, but they roused themselves for a positive final five minutes to the half, using the strong wind at their back and French indiscipline to build pressure, but their overwhelmed set-piece meant they couldn’t turn that into points.


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France wasted little time in moving the game decisively away from the Scots – if that wasn’t the case already – at the start of the second half, when centre and captain Emilien Gailleton went over for try number three, to stretch his team\s lead to 20 points, but the visitors then took their foot off the gas for a 10-minute spell and Scotland dug deep to claim a try back through replacement tight-head prop Callum Norrie.

That prodded France back to life and they claimed try number four through hooker Connor Sa with 15 minutes left in the match, before picking up their second red card, shown to replacement back-row Jules Coules for a tip tackle on Andy Stirrat.

Scotland picked up a late consolation score through second-row Josh Taylor, with McLintock converting, but all in all this was a pretty demoralising evening from a home perspective.


Teams –

Scotland: R Mc Clintock (B Evans 13-22); R McKnight, D Munn (T Glendinning 71), A  Stirrat, O Melville (B Evans 41); C  Townsend, M Redpath (J Cope 69); M Jones (A Rogers 34), P Harrison (G Hiddleston 50), G Scougall (C  Norrie 41), J Taylor, M Williamson, M Deehan (R Brown 69), T Tait (T  Brown 46), O Leatherbarrow.

France: A Bevia; J Joseph, E Gailleton, L Le Brun, E Reybier,; E Dayral (E Randle 65), B Jauneau (S Tarel 69)_; M Perchaud (T Moukoro 55), C Sa, R Bellemand, S M’Foudi (T Cretu, 55), H Auradou, L Banos, E Capilla (J Coulon 63), T Ntamack (N Della Schiava 67).

Referee: Clara Munarini (Italy)


Scorers –

Scotland: Try: Norrie, Taylor; Con: Mc Lintiock 2; Pen: Mc Lintock;

France: Try: Capilla, Bellemand, Gailleton, Sa; Con: Dayral 2; Pen: Dayral 2.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 3-0; 3-3; 3-8; 3-11; 3-16; 3-18 (h-t) 3-23; 8-23; 10-23; 10-28; 10-30; 15-30; 17-30.


Red cards –

France: Joseph (13mins), Coulon (69mins)

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About David Barnes 3908 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.


  1. You can shift the deck chairs about but 1) these players are mostly not playing in the S6 and 2) they aren’t brought up in a goldfish bowl like S Wales or the Irish Provincial Schools Cups.
    They’re just not being exposed to a level of rugby that prepares them to go up against players who are often already professional.

    What’s the solution?

    I don’t know. Could there be a team fielded in a revamped S7 with an age limit or quota on it?

    Clubs and schools might be deprived of players they’ve nurtured but we’ll always be playing catch up otherwise.

    • Jonny. I’m all for creative solutions but you might want to rethink things there.

      Create a team with only U20 players against 6 other sides with vast amounts of playing experience. Yep bound to go well that plan 🙄

  2. G rob age grade rugby in scotland has become a complex affair.We started super 6 where the sru place these academy boys.But the clubs have all recruited players to fill the postions so in alot of cases these boys are excess to requirements.But the academy/Sru say these boys must feature some where.So this is where it gets difficult. Unless there team are winning or have players injured these boys get limited game time.The sru now control super 6 by putting coaches in place in super 6.Nothing is going to change in the short term sru/ academies will develop the best boys. They will do as there doing also import players where there needed.The academy system is not fit for purpose. You could talk about it for weeks.Its not going to change.We need performance related coaching staff where they give out stats for boys on there pathway in rugby.The super 6 concept is great but the reality it’s not working. I cant see that changing any time soon.last year sean linen was released from his job.Super 6 was his baby its was to be the scottish version of the mitre cup apparently.At the same time he was the under 20 coach with shade Munro.So what has changed in that time other than a bit of bag shuffling and a new name above the door.Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but nothing is going to change in scottish rugby till we make change

  3. JB / David Barnes
    I think you have highlighted and somewhat confirmed the issue with your comments.
    Cope should have had much longer than 10 mins to make an impression however as alluded it appears the current half back are irreplaceable – how many other players have fallen by the wayside because of an inability to give others a chance. There was not even a genuine stand off option on the bench which really says it all.
    We must give players opportunities to develop depth / competition for places otherwise we see what we saw on Friday.
    If you do a proper selection process with those that are out there plying their trade out with the Academy structure etc there are some very good players that would be every bit as capable as the current incumbents. Many just need the opportunity which unfortunately in the current system is never likely to happen with an Academy structure that appears hard to be dropped from whatever your form.
    The SRU need to broaden their selection processes so that players out with Academy structures are considered on form and given opportunities accordingly.
    I already see similar issues with the 18’s setup where the name appears to be more important than ability – there are selections for the 1872 cup this afternoon that when taken in the context of the displays from the District games last week just don’t make sense and are not fair.
    Nobody was specifically blaming individuals for the loss just highlighting that others need to be given opportunities. If , as it appears you are suggesting there are no other options out there then this is a sad reflection indeed if the Academy process and that it is failing.
    Look beyond the Academies , there are good players out there , at present they are simply not being recognised because they are either not selected or have opted out of the Academy structure which to be fair is quite common – to suggest that Scotlands best players sit solely within the Academy structure is simply nonsense.
    The Super 6 should have helped with upskilling our youth talent but coaches decided to prioritise winning a valueless Super 6 cup and recruiting Tom , Dick and Harry from outwith Scotland as opposed to what this should be – a showpiece for young Scottish talent and it should be an U25 process.
    Players involved on Friday like Rudi Brown , Rhys Tait and even Christian Townsend were bit part players during the Super 6 , many others again played a bit part at Edinburgh / Glasgow but many of the current 20’s have had limited playing time which is simply not the prep required for a very high quality U20 competition.
    Players of this age need to be playing week in week out , not sitting on a bench getting limited game time. The SRU structures currently in place are nonsense from this perspective and I feel sorry for these players who simply was to play rugby.

    • If you read this website, including the article this chain of comments appears below, then you will see that I and the site have argued long and loudly about our concerns with Scottish rugby’s development pathway.

      My specific comment here was related to unwarranted attacks on two 19-year-old boys which, as far as I’m concerned, reflect very badly on those making the comments and undermine any valid point they might have.

    • GRob ….Totally agree.

      Of the criticism of players in certain positions.
      If they have aspirations in professional rugby .they have to take the criticism .that’s what goes with the job.just look at the criticism given out to Hoggy. .Russell & co for yesterday’s debacle
      The real world is brutal.

      • Nobody is aloof from being dropped . There’s not much happening at halfback positions and in many others .
        if they’re not hacking it there has to be a change in the starting line up .what is there to lose.
        Rugby is a team game .there are others in that squad that must be given their chance to see what they can do
        Who knows what they can do till they’re on the pitch .
        If there’s no changes for next match someone’s not doing their job right.

    • Not agreeing or disagreeing with what you’ve said. But to say Rhys Tait was a bit part player in the Super 6 is not accurate. He started every game bar two for Boroughmuir, one of which he was on the bench.

  4. Colin Hill – remind me how many French players were on the pitch for the last 10 mins?? A bit unfair to judge Redpath/Cope when Scotland had a numerical advantage and one team was effectively on the bus home. Remember these are young men who read this stuff

    • Well said, JB.

      I 100 percent agree. To blame the two young half backs for this defeat is a shocking misrepresentation of what happened and/or misunderstanding of the challenges this team face.

      Every selection is debatable but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest either Murray Redpath or Christian Townsend should not be in in the mix. It is telling that those chucking stones haven’t been able to name alternative players who should be selected instead.

      Similarly, to criticise a beaten captain (who had to be taken off mid match with a migraine) for trying to remain upbeat is ludicrous.

      Sadly, I find the tone of a lot of comments on this site depressing, and these ones are among the worst, in my opinion.

      David Barnes

      • Negativity which infects Scottish rugby.
        Matt Williams’s unpopular comments actually struck at a truth about our rugby culture. His mistake was to attribute it to the players when in reality it’s driven by some fans.

        The expectations and hubris are always sky high, then we trash the players when they lose. The senior team gets it but now it seems the U20s get it too?
        Some of this doesn’t even relate to their rugby- tattoos, mobile phones all fair game.

        Almost as if we’re jealous of our own players and don’t really think they deserve to be there.

        They’re the best we’ve got and we should be trying to lift them.

  5. Half backs should have been dropped after Wales game regardless of their family history. Others must be given an opportunity to stake a claim in remaining games.
    Scottish set piece was awful , Harrison can’t throw.
    Rhys Tait as captain was woefully misguided in his post match assertions , in particular that Scotland had any period of dominance in the game.
    Tackling was terrible.
    Need to go back to basics and get basic skills right – set piece , tackling, develop a kicking game should it be required.

  6. Colin Hill 100% correct , far too much emphasis on a surname. I remember when players were in the Pathway system it was actually one of the questions they were asked – did you have any relatives play representative rugby ?? One of the objectives at this level is to develop depth and there must be other scrum halves / stand offs capable of operating in this environment at least to the same level as Townsend / Redpath.
    The Super six was months ago , what have many of these players been doing since then ?
    Some of these players have been subs due Prem 1 sides but that seriously cannot be viewed as good prep for the U20 season. Rudi Brown , one of the subs , sat on the bench for a few Hawick games , how can this be viewed as good preparation for the 20’s environment.
    The fact we have to go to Ealing Trailfinders to find squad members is also a serious concern.
    These other countries players are all regularly playing top level club rugby.
    There are better players playing club rugby in Scotland than some of these 20’s players but they are inexplicably excluded because , in the words of regional selectors – that one very good 18 year old was told “ they will never play international rugby” so was not even selected for the 1872 teams. To label an 18 year old like this is ridiculous and nonsensical particularly when he is every bit as good as those in the Academy setup. Rugby is a late developer sport and every avenue should be kept open to draft players in.
    The SRU Academies are just not the answer

    • It’s happened for years in representative rugby .
      You come from a certain place and you’re in the system if you’re face doesn’t fit you’re not.
      I know a player who was told he wasn’t in a district squad at u16 level .
      2 players picked from private schools picked in front of him..
      The player went back to his home junior club . Did his talking on the field ended up playing out of his skin so the powers that be had to include him in Scotland under 18 …under19 ..under 20 .Scotland 7 …and also played for Edinburgh. .
      The 2 players picked in front of him disappeared .
      There are plenty players out there that are never given a chance in Scotland
      .the system in Scotland stinks

  7. Mr Dodson
    Something has to change cos your vision for Scottish rugby is clearly not Working .
    What idea will you come up with next to waste money that should be going to grass roots
    Don’t mention Murrayfield today .
    Another false Dawn

  8. Colin hill your a bit unfair in your comment about who you are.What do you expect your half backs to do in a game where your getting blown away upfront.I have watched young townsend play super 6 and he is a good lad at 10 when he is playing behind a pack going forward.These boys didnt go out and try and not play.They were just over powered and bullied up front and didnt have any thing to combat the french.

    • I stand by my comment .
      Change of personnel is a must .others in this squad must be given their chance
      You can’t play rugby on sentiment just to please people

  9. There has to be changes made to this team .3 games now .still the same .

    Starting at half backs.
    You can’t be picked just because you have famous fathers .it has to be on ability.
    Pro rugby is brutal .if you don’t perform you’re out .
    Last 10 minutes when S / Half Redpath taken off .Cope was introduced and Scotland showed more get go than they did the whole match previously .
    There must be an understudy at 10 who deserves a chance to start cos there’s nothing happening from Townsend .
    As I said previously pro rugby is brutal .
    If you don’t perform you’re out .you can’t be picked just because of who you are in this sport

    • Colin Hill – remind me how many French players were on the pitch for the last 10 mins?? A bit unfair to judge Redpath/Cope when Scotland had a numerical advantage and one team was effectively on the bus home. Remember these are young men who read this stuff

  10. David barnes is on the money with this report.The concept of super 6 is great.But reality it’s not working for these boys.Front 5 need game time for development and super 6 has not provided that.How many super 6 teams have under 21 playing regular ? in the front 5.These boys need maximum game time super 6 prem where ever.With the back up of SC from the sru/academies then we might get some where.Players dont develop on the side lines the develop on the field with regular game time and coaching.Sadly I dont see this changing any time soon as all super 6 teams are running adverts all over the world for front 5 players.Just look at edinburgh signing another 2 NZ props that were brought over to play super 6

  11. Also in England the Pro teams have U20 teams that play in a league . I assume that French do likewise. Even Italy U20’s are better than us now.

  12. U20s this year has been chastening and must be a wake up call for the SRU. We are going to have two heavy defeats against Ireland and Italy and any players from this squad who might have had promise have probably had their careers held back by the state of the u20 development pathway.

    Other posters are using is to push their usual hobby horse but I think what’s needed is really a root and branch review and to use the increased investment from recent commercial deals to prioritise youth development pathways, rather than main focus just on the pro-elite game. The national team will wither in the vine if we can’t address the shocking state of our youth game.

  13. I wonder how the latest debacle with the U20s will be interpreted at Murrayfield?

    Seems from my pov that what ever approach – and I use that word advisedly- is being deployed it’s not working.

    Players learn the hand by playing it. You don’t become a better player in the gym.

    The question is will Scottish Rugby change or double down?

  14. The first red card was a red card all day and twice on sundays.
    The motivation of current application of the laws is player safety. A big part of that is trying to get players to tackle lower so avoiding the potential for head on head or shoulder on head collisions.
    French player approached the tackle high, the intent is to hold the ball up, or the player up until support arrives and try and manufacture a turnover.
    You will see it multiple times every game because players are coached to do this. But every time you do it you run the risk of head on head contact, and that is what happened. Entered tackle high, head on head, with force, ball carrier didn’t duck into him so no mitigation.
    Ref had to be led through the protocol by the TMO.
    Until players tackle lower, we will see more red cards, and players won’t change until coaches change how they want players to tackle; and that only happens if they keep losing players to red cards

    • As of Wednesday it is no longer a red card.

      “Disciplinary Update – Joseph and Coulon Decisions

      1. Jefferson Joseph
      France U20’s winger Jefferson Joseph appeared before an independent judicial committee via video link having received a red card for an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously) in the Under-20 Six Nations match Scotland U20 v France U20 on Friday 25 February 2022.

      The independent Judicial Committee consisting of Richard Cole – Chairman (Wales), Stefan Terblanche (South Africa) and Valeriu Toma (Romania) heard the case, considering all the available evidence, including multiple broadcast angles and hearing submissions from the player and his representatives.

      The player denied that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card. Having reviewed all the evidence, the committee deemed that:

      In applying the Head Contact Process in the Six Nations Rules, the “head on head” collision with the Scotland full back was not intentional, was not reckless and was not avoidable, and as such did not constitute foul play. The incident occurred at high speed, the player’s view was obstructed by other players and the player did not have time to react differently.

      On that basis, the committee did not uphold the red card and the player is free to play again immediately.”

  15. Scotland looked poorly coached more than anything. The lack of structure has been obvious with and without the ball all 3 games so far. Difficult to understand how we could be outnumbered at a tackle area when we have switched to go wide left with France on the back foot and down to 13, but we managed it
    The lineout has been a mess all 3.
    Scrum got a bit of a doing, but much of that was abysmal referring

  16. Maybe you should consider the proposed RFU model for the
    English Championship – introduce Glasgow and Edinburgh A sides of Academy , u23 players and max no older Pros to the Scottish Premiership to get more game time for the younger players ,raise the standard of the Premiership and do away with the divisive and non effective Super 6
    This would cost no money as we would be using current resources more effectively and the money saved from Super6 could go to financing a third Pro side

  17. I don’t think the Super 6 is the problem. It’s the fact that it finished in October, so very few of these players have had proper game time for 3-4 months. I’m not sure there were even any warm-up games for the U20 squad.

    • behind closed door games. And for those playing down south, same as whatever the English players got.
      The timing of the S6 merits a look at. The last 2 seasons have been badly disrupted by covid, and the cross border stuff which would have followed on hasn’t happened. No-one’s fault, but we should look at the reasons for the early start/finish.
      Prior to S6, we had much the same situation in terms of U20 players not always getting enough game time. Clubs quite properly prioritise winning, chasing titles and avoiding relegation. And when they did play, it was at a lower level, lower quality. Again, no fault, it was what it was.

      We have good years when we have an outstanding group and good coaches. And even then we haven’t won the U20 6N for a wee while!
      We have neither this season, couple it with maybe not enough game time and its a tough life, and very frustrating

  18. Doesn’t look good for the future. The French were simply so much superior all round. Stronger, more powerful and dynamic and faster. They broke tackles at will and if they had kept 15 on I hate to think what the score might have been. Our No 8 Leatherbarrow was perhaps the only player we had that looked in the same class as the French.

  19. So if they are not getting game time at Glasgow or Edinburgh, and too few are getting enough game time at Super 6, where are these guys learning to play the game by playing the game?

    Please tell me the paid employees responsible for the players health and welfare are not using a system they deemed not fit for purpose to give these guys game time.

    • historically, very few U20 players get much in the way of game time for Glasgow or Edinburgh. Those that do are few and far between, and are often retained by their team rather than playing in the U20s. This is the same in England BTW, but having more teams more players get a crack – and they still pull players if needed – see Exeter and Leatherbarrow last week – which we endorse to get that player experience at a higher level

  20. The academy players seem to get held back from a lot of the super 6 games. They surely need game time, especially on the back of the Covid shut down. Missed tackles are a big problem, as well as the set piece. Not sure why we kept trying to hit the tail of the lineout on a windy night.


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