U20s 6N: young Scots are run ragged as Ireland stroll to a Slam

Defeat completes a whitewash for Kenny Murray's squad, whose only points came from a Ross McKnight try

Christian Townsend
Christian Townsend produced Scotland U20s' only real moment of magic in Cork with his long, looping pass for Ross McKnight's try. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk




A DISMAL shadow Six Nations campaign ended in demoralising fashion for Scotland yesterday as they conceded nine tries to new champions Ireland at Musgrave Park in Cork. With a Grand Slam as well as the title to play for, the home team were simply too slick and professional for the Scots, who had to work hard from first to last to prevent the final score from being even worse.

The heavy defeat completed a whitewash for Scotland, who have now lost their last ten games in the Championship. While individual players have undoubted promise, as a collective they have a very long way to go before they can be truly competitive at this level.  

“Fair play to Ireland – they’ve been a class act the whole tournament,” Scotland captain Rhys Tait said. “They’re deserved winners and deserved Grand Slam champions. They played on top of us really well today and we couldn’t quite keep up with the pace of the game.”

Tait showed exemplary leadership at times in very difficult circumstances, but nothing he or his colleagues could do was able to stop the Irish from claiming the title in style. They wasted no time in putting the pressure on the visitors with a driving maul, but good work on the deck by Scotland loosehead Michael Jones snuffed out a dangerous attack. That did no more than delay the opening score, however, as, after another maul had gained valuable ground, prop Jack Boyle drove over, with Charlie Tector converting.

The sixth-minute try was no more than the home deserved after a passage of play in which Scotland had barely got out of their own half. It was an ominous but wholly predictable beginning to the game given the relative fortunes of the sides in the Championship, and barely another six minutes had elapsed when, after the Scotland scrum had been shunted backwards, winger Fionn Gibbons forced his way over in the left corner despite the attentions of three defenders. Tector’s conversion attempt was wide.

A midfield break by Patrick Harrison offered a brief respite for the young Scots from their defensive chores, but the hooker ran out of support. A multi-phase attack midway through the half at least saw Scotland camped in Irish territory for a couple of minutes, but they were unable to make real inroads.

By contrast, Ireland were clinical when their next chance came, and Jude Postlethwaite finished off confidently after Robin Mc Clintock failed to mop up a loose ball. There was a brief review for a suspected forward pass, but Italian referee Federico Vedovelli was happy to let the score stand, and Tector’s conversion took his team’s tally to 19.

Scotland’s best chance up to that point of setting up an attacking platform came when they were awarded a penalty inside the Irish half, but Christian Townsend failed to find touch. Mc Clintock had picked up an injury just before that, and he limped off to be replaced by Keiran Clark.

Ireland thought they had scored again when the referee ruled that Boyle had got over again, but a replay showed the forward had not been in control of the grounding. The bonus-point try was not long delayed, however, and it came when a clever Tector chip into the in-goal area bounced invitingly for James Culhane to collect and touch down as several defenders hesitated. The stand-off needed treatment before adding another two points.

With five minutes left in the first half, Scotland knew all too well that their priority for the rest of the game was damage limitation. Tait showed what needed to be done with an excellent tap tackle on full-back Patrick Campbell, but there was ample time after that for Ireland to go again. Inside the last 30 seconds before the break, Mark Morrissey broke through a despairing tackle and offloaded to  Ben Carson, who finished off comfortably, with Tector taking his tally to four out of five.   

Scotland’s injury concerns grew when Michael Jones had to go off early in the second half, by which time it was clear that a bit of urgency had gone out of the Irish attack. That contrasted with the injection of assertiveness into the visitors’ play, and Andy Stirrat came close to producing a breakthrough only for his pass to Ross McKnight to go just too low.

Perhaps that near thing woke the Irish up, because within a couple of minutes scrum-half Matthew Devine got their sixth try, kicking through then collecting after a powerful break by Chay Mullins. Tector missed this time, and both he and the try-scorer were then replaced as Ireland decided to start emptying their bench.

A lineout maul produced a simple seventh try for James McCormick before the hour was up, and replacement fly-half Tony Butler added the two points with a little help from a post.

To their credit, Scotland kept plugging away in search of a score as the game entered its final stages, and they got off the mark just after Postlethwaite was shown a yellow card for a team offence as Ireland’s penalty count crept up. A tap penalty made good ground initially, and eventually McKnight scored in the right corner after a long pass from Townsend, who missed the conversion.

Ireland had the last word, however, with two tries in the final few minutes. Josh Hanlon burst through on a good line to score try No 8, and then Gibbons then added a ninth off first phase after a penalty went to touch. Butler converted both.

Scorers: Ireland U20s: Tries: Boyle, Gibbons 2, Postlethwaite, Culhane, Carson, Devine, McCormack, Hanlon. Cons: Tector 4, Butler 3.

Scotland U20s: Try: McKnight.

Scoring sequence (Ireland U20s first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 24-0, 26-0, 31-0, 33-0 half-time, 38-0, 43-0, 45-0, 45-5, 50-5, 52-5, 57-5, 59-5. 

Yellow card: Ireland: Postlethwaite 69. 

Ireland Under-20s: P Campbell (C Mullins 37); A King, J Postlethwaite, B Carson, F Gibbons; C Tector (T Butler 56), M Devine (E Coughlan 56); J Boyle, J McCormick (J Hanlon 60), R McGuire (S Wilson 56), C O’Tighearnaigh, M Morrissey (A McNamee 60), L McLoughlin, R Crothers, J Culhane (D Mangan 60). 

Scotland Under-20s: R Mc Clintock (K Clark 29); R McKnight (T Glendinning 72), D Munn, A Stirrat, B Evans; C Townsend, M Redpath (J Cope 58); M Jones (A Rogers 45), P Harrison (D Hood 73), G Scougall (C Bowker 60), J Taylor, M Williamson, M Deehan (I Hill 60), R Tait (captain, R Gordon 68), T Brown. 

Referee: F Vedovelli (Italy).

About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. 28 comments at the time of writing and no real agreement on the issues, never mind the solutions. Apparently we need to simultaneously get our players out of the gym and leave behind the “Monkeys” whilst enhancing their size and power, disband S6, return them to community clubs but also give these boys increased elite competition. We also apparently need to pick more smaller players whilst also matching physically superior opponents. Remarkable.

    The suggestion of return to the ways of the past is laughable. Scotland were simply not competitive at age group level for nearly fifty years under the community club model. Then 6/7 years ago young players started to be more professionally (and centrally) trained and prepared. That gave rise to the relative up years of 2016 & 2017 and the U18 victories in 2018 against England, France and Ireland in consecutive games (remember that? Darge, Boyle, Maclean, Henderson, Dobie et al?).

    The harsh reality is that elite athletes are streamed younger and younger these days, in all sports. Every England player from U16 level on is in a Premiership Academy (and is usually playing at a top school).

    Similar in Ireland. The 26 players most likely to be in contention for Ireland’s first choice 23 can be split from the following pathways

    17 From Leinster schools, (16 from Private Dublin fee paying schools)
    5 from Overseas
    4 From all other places

    In short, Ireland proves that concentration works.

    If Scotland wants to channel its talent it should have a top U18 league of the best 6/7 schools plus (maybe) 2/3 clubs sides – and not care a jot about the physical location of these teams. Subsidise scholarships at these existing centres of excellence in partnership with the likes of Merchiston, Strathallan and Dollar et al. Create ever stronger links with Glasgow and Edinburgh from U16 onwards to face the Newcastle Falcons, Sale Sharks etc of this world.

    In an ideal world, there would then be a URC U20 league that the best of these players directly graduate to. That would be a huge step forward.

    At the same time, S6 should continue and should (rightly) bias towards the development of younger players both during and post U20s. Mixing aspiring pros (some of which have developed more slowly) with office workers and plumbers playing community rugby doesn’t work in producing pro class players and never has done. The links of S6 teams with university talent (a forgotten component in the debate) need to be developed.

    In al of this, it is absolutely no surprise that the nation that is similarly struggling is Wales, who we beat heavily in Wales at U20 level in 2020 and should have done so again this year. Another nation where the identity of its representative teams has been a running sore and where the age old debate of who should control and develop the best players has raged on for 20 plus years, as too many refuse to accept that community rugby isn’t the place for elite athletes to develop.

  2. The bottom line here is that all these kids do not play enough rugby as it is and therefore will never master their craft.
    The number of young players not playing rugby every week in the academies or super 6 squads is quite frankly appalling.
    It is no surprise to me that our kids are failing in an under 20 championship. If you compare the English or Irish u20 squads many of them have had exposure and experience playing in the professional game in their respective countries. We have kids playing Super 6 (sometimes) or Scottish Premiership rugby, which is simply not a high enough level or standard to compete with these other nations.
    A serious amount of money needs to be invested in Edinburgh and Glasgow academies and they should be shadowing Edinburgh and Glasgow fixtures albeit as a 2nd team playing every week and being exposed to a decent level of competition.
    It would be a start.

  3. Need more competition at this age group! Super 6 > Glasgow/ Edinburgh if they don’t get a lot of game time in Pro leagues unless injuries or 6Nations

    Need u20 Pro14 play Irish / Welsh / Italians and Saffas that will increase their competitiveness and bridge the gap!

    Need same for Women too!!!!

  4. Super 6 was supposed to be a pathway to pro rugby. .. someone called Dodson said that
    Young guys don’t get game time with this farce They should be playing every week with their home clubs not taken away from them to stagnate
    You only learn skills on a pitch not in a gym with other ‘monkeys’.
    Scottish rugby is not working .Dodson has ruined it
    I’m only telling the truth .it’s there for all to see with recent results

  5. You look at each u20 side in the any six nations last or present. Each team other than Scotland have already had boys making there pro debuts and being in that environment has a real impact on players growth and experience.

    Take Englands Harry Arundel, he’s had a few games in the Prem cup and played well, through playing well he’s been called up to play and start in 3/4 Premiership Games.

    You look at the Scotland boys, playing rarely in S6 and very few have had any game time with pro clubs apart from 2 of the Edinburgh boys.

  6. Wonder what the conversion rate is fron U20 level through to FT Pro contract with Edinburgh or Glasgow?

  7. Painful to watch those young Scottish players being scattered and bulldozed like a mis-matched middle school team by a comprehensively superior Irish U20 squad.

    The half-time score of 33-0 on the doors of Musgrave Park will have given much food for thought. Was anyone at EH12 showing a modicum of interest in the underlying reasons?

  8. I forced myself to watch the whole match and as the Irish commentator embarrassingly said ” the opposition was substandard and was completely outclassed all over the park ”
    So where to now ?
    Well we could worse than starting with a close study of what Ireland have been doing with their player pathways since 1995 which has led to 1 World Cup and severla Grand Slams/ 6 Nations wins at the U19 and U20 levels

  9. Once you’re in the SRU system you can’t get out .be it players or coaches .
    How many players are overlooked because they’re not monsters at early teen stage .others you wonder why they’re there cos it’s not on ability
    Late developers Never given a chance again .be it where you come from or who you know .
    Not every young player comes from central belt or private schools .
    A revamp of the whole SRU system has to happen for any progress to be made .
    As for SRU coaches .
    Too many have failed but are just moved to another in house tenure with no questions asked .
    Any other job and they’d be down the road pronto.
    That’s my opinion

    • Very good points there Colin

      I notice that the Irish scrum half, Devine isn’t a monster. Though their back row more than made up for that.

      We don’t have enough players in Scotland. We then concentrate on a smaller and smaller pool of youth, ejecting any that don’t fit the mould.

      We only have to look at football to see the folly of the discard model. The difference is they have thousands more participants at youth level so it’s not so noticeable for them. Rugby doesn’t, so needs to look after what it has much more effectively

      And we wonder why there is a problem.

    • This is 100% accurate. Just spent 2 weeks watching pathways trials: crash ball, crash ball, crash ball. Appear to be selecting almost entirely on size. And blazer.

      • Couldn’t agree more. And those with some skill but who are too small, particularly in the backs, seemed to be cut immediately. Passing into space disregarded, attacking kicking disregarded, trying to play disregarded. It’s a real shame and one which will come back to haunt us.

        Rugby is a game of finding space – not a game of finding opponents. When will we learn?

    • Only issue I have with this is looking at the squad, where exactly are the monsters? (Almost) none of them are big enough for pro rugby, and apart from Wales all the games have looked men v boys. Totally agree on the need for wider nets and change though

  10. That was not a pleasant game to watch. Ireland so much better than us in all areas of the pitch.

    The Irish commentators were spot on. As pegj says – pros against Nat talented youth.

    The more damning comment was “Scotland have got used to losing and it shows”

    So over to you Murrayfield. Because the current approach isn’t working.

  11. Another backward step for the SRU and Scottish rugby.I’m sure these lads are “leal and true” but it must be so demoralising.

  12. There seems to be a paucity of good coaches in the Scotland set-up. It is never more apparent than in this U20’s squad, but it also shows in the senior squad!

  13. To have a super 6 tournament in which hardly any of our supposed next generation of pros get game time is a massive, massive failure.

    They’ll carry the baggage of these uncompetitive performances into their pro careers, assuming some of them make the pros.

    And that will not help us to be competitive at all.

    • Indeed so, Johnny B. It is essential that, in addition to skills & fitness development work, etc. and participation in higher-level representative rugby e.g. on a District basis, these aspiring / emerging young players benefit from the day-to-day learning process to be found right there in competitive club (not contrived ancillary “entities) matches.

    • Wonder what the conversion rate is fron U20 level through to FT Pro contract with Edinburgh or Glasgow?

  14. They’re not being exposed to a level of rugby which preps them for this.

    The Irish play in an incredible schools cup organised by province and every one of them is affiliated with a senior pro team where they get game time for the development side at least.

    Most of our players don’t even get in the super 6.

    • Also in the English Prem all teams run an U20’s team that play each other. No wonder we cannot complete with the other 5 Nations

  15. 10 defeats in 2 years of U20 six nations. Last year we have picked a young squad so the get the experience and benefits of playing at this level. This year nothing has changed only experience these young men have is being beaten well in every game. New coaches in so they won’t take any blame and pass the buck to the old coaches but the system is so wrong. You would have to do something so bad to get booted as a coach once you get in there. These Teflon coaches just keep getting moved from one post to the other. There are very good coaches out there who have the knowledge and not just passion but understanding of what it takes to win. This is supposed to be our next generation coming through years of resources have went in to these players and it is either a lack of desire in the players part or a total breakdown of the coaches and the not fit for purpose Academy system. This will only mean more South African imports to fill the hole left. It just saddens me that nothing will be done and the same BS will be spun out.

  16. Another poor performance from U20 side who again seemed disorganised and lacking in structure. Again no options for strategic change from the bench although Cope looked a far better option when he came on for Redpath. Why has he not been given more of a opportunity ? If I am an U20 fringe player with any aspirations and am watching this I would be disillusioned – it is little wonder so many players are lost to the game. These strategies will lose us players when we can ill afford to do so. Where is the incentive for players with the potential to play for the U20’s when the selection process is so narrow ?
    The Scottish boys physicality was nowhere near the intensity of the Irish , nearly every Scottish carry was from a standing start whereas Ireland hit the line at pace.
    Let’s be clear about this , these boys are in the pathway / Academy system so should be the physical and technical equal of their opponents but they are miles off…. why ?
    It was actually embarrassing listening to the Irish commentary on the quality of Scottish play….
    The persistence of the coaches in repeatedly picking some of these players is absolute nonsense and they should have to account for these decisions as they make no sense at all. To me they are selecting as if there is no consequence to the teams performance which is ridiculous as they should be viewed as directly accountable for these abject displays and as such you have to question their suitability to coach at this level.
    Watching these displays has been very concerning and the system , player pool and coaching need a complete overhaul.

    • “seemed disorganised and lacking in structure”. I wonder where we’ve seen this before! Is there a pattern here?

  17. Watched most of the game and it was men against boys. Ireland looked like a well drilled professional team ala Leinster and we looked like a bunch of kids straight out of school.I wouldn’t criticise any individuals as they are youngsters doing their best. One area that shocked me was the non existent maul defence – one maul was marched about 30 yards with Scottish forwards leaning on or standing off watching. It looked like they hadn’t been coached on basic body positions to stop a maul. I can’t remember the gap between these sides being so great. The lads do deserve credit for a better 2nd half and sticking in to the end.

  18. Why do we just want to smash into contact and go to ground. Where are the ball skills to offload, run counter lines, create gaps. Very, very predictable and surely big questions for the SRU surrounding pathways, coaching, competitive games and finance. Has been disappointing for a number of years.

  19. Feardy Management Still never changed the 10 in any match .
    Gutted if I was his understudy .

    • Our tempo seemed to improve dramatically when Cope replaced Redpath at 9.

      But it’s more than just better use of the subs bench that we need to look at, well beaten in all games (apart from maybe Wales) by teams who were more structured, skilled and physically superior.

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