U20s 6N: Kenny Murray makes eight changes ahead of Italy clash

Head coach challenges players to restore pride after heavy Ireland defeat

Jonny Morris
Back-row forward Jonny Morris in action for Scotland Under-20s. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

KENNY MURRAY has made five selection and three enforced changes to his Scotland Under-20s team after last weekend’s heavy loss to Ireland ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations finale against Italy at Scotstoun.

In the backline,  Kerr Johnston (who impressed during last year’s Six Nations but missed the start of this campaign with a lower limb injury) makes his first appearance of this championship in place of Logan Jarvie on the right wing, while Richie Simpson and Ben Afshar have recovered from the injuries they picked up earlier in the campaign to return at half-back.

In the pack, Eben Cairns will make his Scotland U20 debut at tight-head, replacing his Glasgow Hawks club-mate Moby Ogunlaja who has a foot injury, Jerry Blyth Lafferty gets a chance from the start at hooker with Corey Tait dropping to the bench, Jake Parkinson is suspended after his red-carding against Ireland and Harris McLeod drops to the bench so it is all change in the second-row with Eddie Erskine and Ruaraidh Hart starting, and Rudi Brown is concussed so Sam Derrick starts at openside flanker.

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“We want the guys who have not been playing to come in and put their hat in the ring,” said Murray. “It was a really disappointing performance last week, albeit Ireland are a good side, but when we reflected on the game it was just a really poor performance from us, we were disappointed, but we are where we are.

“We want to come out this week and restore a bit of pride, that is what we have spoken about in terms of our mindset this week. The boys have trained well and worked  hard and taken the review on the chin and I can’t fault their efforts this week.

“The last two games have been really tough, that second half in France we got blown away and then we didn’t really get going in the Ireland game at all and everyone gets down about it, the coaches get down, the players get down, but we had a really good chat when we came back into camp this week about our focus and our mindset and at the end of the day we are all in it together. It is not the players’ fault these results, it is not any individuals’ fault, we are all in this together and that’s been our mindset this week.

“We are going out there to obviously get a win, but it’ll be a very tough game as anyone who has watched Italy will know they probably have the best set piece in the competition so it’ll be a real battle up front,” he added. “We have to match that physicality and put down a marker in terms of how well we can play.”

With that in mind, it is going to be a particularly big test for debutant Cairns at tight-head. “He is under-19 so he’ll be back next year,” explained Murray. “He is originally from Ardrossan rugby club and then joined Glasgow Hawks and has been training there and just not had enough game time as a young prop at a good level yet. He played against us for Glasgow A in January and he has been in camp with us a while, so he is getting his opportunity this week.

“It’s a big challenge, in Scottish Rugby we don’t have a huge amount of props to choose from so we have to make sure we work with the guys we’ve got and help them through.”


Scotland U20s (v Ireland at Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow, on Sunday @ 2pm): D King; K Johnston, D Munn (co-captain), K Yule, G Gwynn; R Simpson, B Afshar; C Davidson, J Blyth-Lafferty, E Cairns, E Erskine, R Hart, L McConnell (co-captain), S Derrick, J Morris. Substitutes: C Tait, M Surry, R Deans, H McLeod, E Guy, C Clare, B Salmon, W Robinson.

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About David Barnes 3911 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. The problem is that if you are not part of the Academy you are not in the frame. Plenty of youngsters in Prem and Nat1 who are not currently part of the academy set up who don’t get a look in. No matter what sport you coach, development is a numbers game. The more you have in the system the better. Stop the old boys act and start developing players instead of scouting sons of players and coaches.

    • Spot on James. One I’ve been monitoring, since seeing him playing a couple of times against my club this season, is the top U20 try scorer across Prem/Scottish Cup games. Gathered he isn’t in the Academy set-up, therefore haven’t seen his name near the Scotland U20 squad. Quite baffling when the lads that are in his position appear to have little about them/have failed to notch a point amongst them in the 6N games so far.

    • Nepotism is and has been the culture of Scottish rugby for yonks .
      Sons of famous fathers and coaches are first on the teamsheet .
      Never on proven ability

      • Daffy D .
        Went on for years .
        What School you went to .
        where you come from .
        who your father is.
        Will it ever change .I doubt it .
        Should be a level playing field for all but it isnt

  2. @James There are a couple of good players in the back-line, but the majority have absolutely nothing special about them. There have been better players watching at home.

  3. Did Murray really say he was starting a player BECAUSE he had not had enough game time….at club level..??!! Is that genuinely how surreal we have become? It’s genuinely scary the direction of travel that Scottish rugby is taking. It’s not Italy and Georgia we need to worry about its Spain and Portugal!.

  4. Is the returning Kerr Johnston not the lad who missed the big, crowd wise, festive Gala v Melrose game because he was on an SRU ‘training programme’. And yet here he is returning at the tail end of u20 6N due to injury. Mmm? Let these young guys (and girls) develop by playing rugby!

  5. An absolutely absurd comment about props in Scotland. After bilge we’ve witnessed this time around there will coaches will be frothing at the mouth over that statement. He has simply refused to pick the best prop’s available to him and the only decent prop he has picked has been on the bench. That is a truly disgraceful comment.

    • interesting comment. I’m not fully up to speed on all potential U20 players, so who are the props who are better and not picked?

      • There are many props who may not be getting a look in. I know from being a follower of the National 1 league there are two u20s props that stick out in my head.
        Patrick Ratumaisese from Inverness, is a good ball carrier and often makes a positive impact when he comes off the bench for Highland. For a big lad, he’s explosive and can pop out a offload to get teams on the front foot. Not too sure whether he’s part of the Academy or not but a good player who would bite at the chance to play on the u20s stage.
        Cameron Murphy, up from Yorkshire Rugby Academy, another powerful player with a good skill set and won’t back down when under stress. Starts week in week out for Stirling playing close to 80mins each game and hasn’t missed a game all season. Believe he’s also training in the Academy as well.
        These two boys are good comfortable scrummagers, both with the ability to play both sides of the scrum. Even if it’s a lower league, front row is all about experience and these boys are holding their own against good scrummaging props. Watched Murphy go head to head with Ex Pro and Ex Southern Knight Grant Shiells and Murphy put Sheills under stress quite a few times. I’m not saying I know what it takes to win international games, but just under the Premiership we have other options. Who would love the opportunity to represent Scotland. Another Example not a prop, but Harris Rutherford at Gala, a great player, reads the game extremely well, and hasn’t been involved in Six Nations either.
        Some of the Scotland boys have been 2nd string in their Premiership sides and not playing a high level. National 1 is still a great league and these boys have been Cemented in the First Teams each week.

    • Jm Not only the best props that aren’t being selected. Based on years of watching many of the eligible u20’s, there are a few players missing from the squad that are quite simply more effective players than some that have been regular starters. Can only think that the coaches have their favoured Academy players and stick with them no matter what.

      • Funnily enough, the site thinks I’m a robot! Nothing like editorial control! I don’t understand why we don’t change the whole team. It can’t be worse than last week. There’s been so much investment in coaches, players etc and yet the result is horrendous. No one is talking about strategy, tactics or coaches. What have Messrs Mallinder and Fletcher delivered since they arrived? Quite simply, F… all.

      • Plenty of really good under 20’s in all positions not being looked at.As Scotia said the coaches always have their favourites. look at the back-line as an example!

      • This picking their favorites has gone on for years .
        Influence from certain areas is rife in Scottish rugby circles .and it stinks
        Just look at Townsend’ & Redpath last year
        Another Townsend this year parachuted in from nowhere
        Nepotism at its best

      • Rugby Watcher the fact you are advocating the sub prop from Highland shows how poor the system is in Scotland. no reflection on the player but other u20s are playing full professionals we are years behind.


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