U20s 6N: Scotland brought back down to earth with a bump by France

Head coach Kenny Murray labels performance as unacceptable

Scotland Under-20s head coach Kenny Murray had a few harsh words for his team after heavy defeat to France. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland Under-20s head coach Kenny Murray had a few harsh words for his team after heavy defeat to France. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

France 54

Scotland 12

A SOBERING night in the South of France saw Scotland out-muscled and out-played by bigger and more experienced French opposition. It was a harsh reminder after the high of beating Wales a fortnight ago of how easily things can unravel at this level if you don’t perform at or close to your best.

“I’m really disappointed because we didn’t get off the bus, to be honest,” said head coach Kenny Murray. “From the first minute to the 80th minute we were second best.

“We didn’t win any collisions, we were slow to get organised both sides of the ball and just didn’t show the energy and passion we spoke about before the game. We’ve got a lot of learnings to take.

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“If you play against a good team and they beat you – fine. And France are a good side. But it is the manner we lost the game which disappoints me. We didn’t show enough energy and physicality to play at this level.

“We prepared well. Had a normal training weeks, came out to France on Wednesday so that there was a rest between travelling and playing, so there is no excuses. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to take that on the chin, as staff and players. It’s just not acceptable.

“The big ting in rugby is that you’ve got the opportunity to move on quickly when you are in this kind of tournament, so we’ll do our review over the next day or two then ben back ing training on Tuesday. It’s a good group of honest players so the boys are not going to try to hide from this. They know they need to be better and it is our job as coaches to help them do that by being honest in terms of the things they need to be better at.

“When Johnny Rutherford came on, he got three or four turnovers, so he’s the guys who probably imposed himself most, but the rest of us need to take a look at ourselves in terms of what we did in that game because we need to bounce back for our home game against [Grand Slam chasing] Ireland in two weeks’ time.”

It is tough when you are up against bigger and more experienced opposition – and more than half of this French team have played Top 14 rugby this season – but the Scots didn’t help themselves with far too many unforced errors. The visiting line-out was a disaster area during the second half, which exacerbated the challenges posed by their scrum being totally overwhelmed.

France drew first blood by softening Scotland up with a powerful line-out maul, then punching through several phases of one-out forward carries, before slick hands sent full-back Mathis Ferté over on the right.

Scotland responded well on this occasion, with Geordie Gwynn, a third minute replacement for Ben Evans, taking advantage of a slightly fortuitous bounce off Dan King’s shoulder to streak clear, but the try was chalked off because the TMO identified that control of the ball had been lost as the visiting winger slid for the line.

Scotland kept their foot on the gas and got their reward through their tried and tested line-out maul, with openside flanker Rudi Brown helping himself to his third try in as many matches played so far during this Six Nations campaign.

However, the visitors then let France regain the initiative within a minute of the restart, with outside-centre Arthur Mathiron skipping past some woeful Scottish defence and scooting home, and the hosts stretched further ahead when slick hands culminated in a score for scrum-half Léo Carbonneau – son of Phillipe, a French great of the 1990s.

Scotland got on the scoresheet again on 31 minutes when co-captain Duncan Munn sent Corey Tait through a yawning gap, and although the Hawick man was stopped just short, Ruaraidh Hart picked up and muscled over.

And once again, they let the hosts bounce back immediately with Hugo Reus‘ excellent 50/22 exploiting an under-manned back-field to establish the field position from which the gigantic Lenni Nouchi wrestled past Tait and Brown for the first of his two tries in quick succession.

The second try was scooped after an excellent offload out of contact from Louis Penverne sent No 8 Marko Gazzotti on a rampage towards the line, and when he was scragged just a few yards short of scoring himself, the first man on the scene was Nouchi, who wasn’t ever going to be stopped from that sort of range.

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After a scrappy start to the second half, it looked like France had scored again when their maul propelled Scotland 20-yards backwards at high pace leading to replacement tight-head Zaccharie Affane burrowing over, but Liam McConnell – the visitors’ other co-captain – did well to get under the ball to prevent the score.

But it increasingly felt like a matter of time before France scored again and that sixth try did eventually arrive on 54 minutes when Oscar Jegou streaked under the posts, and Affane then made up for his earlier missed opportunity when he collected an overthrown Scottish line-out and rumbled over from all of five yards out.

Ewan Guy did well to nudge Cyriac Guilly into touch as he dived for the line on the left with just under five-minutes left to keep the scoreboard under 50 for the time being, but the Scots just couldn’t get out the danger-zone and when the visiting scrum fell apart under the shadow of their own posts, referee Federico Vedovelli awarded a penalty try.

Guy collected the ball straight from the restart and set off an a mazy run which reached France’s 22, only to be dumped on his backside by a giant tackle from Affane – which kind of summed up the night.


Teams –

France: M Ferté; L Drouet, A Mathiron (L Darricarrere. 53), P Costes, H Trouilloud; H Reus (A Desperes 65), L Carbonneau; L Penverne (L Tabarot 44), P Jouvin (C Lacombre 54), M Pakihivatau (Z Affane 36), B Chinarro (C Gambini 65), L Nouchi (C Guilly 46), O Jegou, E Capilla (C Ferreira 49), M Gazzotti.

Scotland: D King; B Evans (G Gwynn 3), D Munn, K Yule, W Robinson; R Simpson (C Clare 67), F Burgess (R Simpson 77); C Davidson (M Surry 46), C Tait (J Blyth-Lafferty 41), M Ogunlaja (R Deans 46(, J Parkinson (E Erskine 46), R Hart, L McConnell, R Brown (E Guy 71), J Morris (J Rutherford 41).


Scorers –

France: Tries: Ferté, Mathiron, Carbonneau, Nouchi 2, Jegou, Affane, Penalty Try; Con: Reus 6.

Scotland: Tries: Brown, Hart; Con: Simpson.

Scoring sequence (France first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 12-5; 17-5; 19-5; 19-10; 19-12; 24-12; 26-12; 31-12; 33-12; 38-12; 40-12; 45-12; 47-12; 54-12.


Attendance: 10,411

UPDATED: France v Scotland: Hamish Watson returns for Paris trip

About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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. Nary a joined-up backs move from the young Scots in this U-20 6N. Midfield players restricted to defending.

  2. I wouldn’t panic and wouldn’t worry about the result yesterday. We are a small nation in rugby numbers but what is important is that if we have talent we nurture it. If 2/3/4 of the any current U 20’s make it to the full international team then those involved are doing their job. The strength and depth of the current Scotland team reflects the success of our system. Of course in can be better and we must always try and improve.

  3. Usual agenda driven gift being posted by a few.
    France is a country of way over 60 million. Scotland 6 million. Surprise surprise they will have ten times as many big guys in each age group. And then times as many prodigies. Simple stats.
    If every pro team gives match experience to one player, they get 14* players with senior professional rugby experience: we get 2
    *28 if you count the fully professional
    pro D2

    Numbers mean we will always struggle at age group level.

  4. It would be useful and instructive to have a piece that followed up on some of the previous years U20 players that have since graduated from the age group. Given the reality compared to other countries where our players are a mix of semi-pro, university, exiles etc it’s hard to know who’s sticking at it, making the grade etc. What are some of the prospects looking like from the past couple of years of U20 rugby and are there any that are getting significantly more game time now compared to what they were getting then?

  5. Thud. Back to earth and a frightening landing in France. Scotland just not up to challenge physically – and that’s largely down to coaching set-up. Part-time training, albeit with the Academy, produces bit part players, which is no fault of theirs. SRU need to throw some serious finance into developing young would-be stars. School, university and unemployed kids (yes, even 18 and 19 year olds) putting careers on hold with no financial backing is sure to lose too many on the way and leave more deeply disillusioned. Academy bosses need to look outside the burst bubble and get the boys more challenging game time with Premier clubs. Super 6 admittedly a step up, but the players need to experience the daily training regimes only pro clubs can offer if they are to front up the likes of France Under-20s. Dashing all over the country for night training sessions with a Super 6 side, as well as juggling a day job, not to mention club training, is far too disjointed. Look, France, England etc have huge playing resources compared to us, but our limited pool shouldn’t be disadvantaged so much physically. And financially. Oh, and despite agreeing with much of what GRob says, afraid he’s bang out of order with regards to young McConnell. The kid shows plenty of guts even going in front of the camera – without any media training, I bet

  6. One comment I would make re commentary is how many times do we have to trawl round the ground to find famous ex player parents or brothers etc of the players. It’s totally irrelevant and not deserving of the additional news time afforded to it. I lost count of how many times players parents were referenced and sought out in the crowd. Let’s be clear about it these players will undoubtedly already have made gains in their rugby careers simply because of having an ex player parent and at this stage of their careers this should not be relevant. The number of players highlighted yesterday just smacks of significant institutional nepotism , particularly from the French where there were so many it must be a requirement of the job description 😊. It doesn’t say a lot for the spectacle when the topic of conversation so often drifted on to the players relatives and the Mexican wave ….

  7. The Scotland game plan was confusing at best , kicked away far too much ball aimlessly rather than building any meaningful pressure , this is a trait of teams that Rob Chrystie has a hand in coaching … if you have not made territory after 3 phases then you kick ball away …. , repeat , repeat …
    A malfunctioning set piece again deprived Scotland of any good quality consistent ball.
    I also don’t understand the concept of “co captains” , for me young McConnell is a decent enough player but I am not sure he is rounded enough to have this responsibility , his after match interviews are car crash stuff and to me he doesn’t even look comfortable or mature enough in this role. Duncan Munn appears a much more level headed individual and should be the captain alone. I don’t see what value there is in co captains other than this being a bit of coaching “patter “ alongside introducing another level of confusion.
    Also , similar to last year we seem over reliant on certain players. Christian Townsend played nearly every minute last year at 10 and we again seem to be heading in the same direction with Simpson as well as the midfield backs. Surely the strategy at this age is to give exposure to a number of players. Simpson went off with an HIA and there was not specialist stand off replacement came on , indeed it was notable that he inexplicably returned for the final minute of the game.
    It was also notable in the last game against Wales that Simpson looked injured for the majority of the second half , it is common sense to have specialist stand off cover on the bench at this level.
    What’s the point in having a squad if coaches refuse to play players from within that squad.
    Playing exposure has been part of the issue in the Super 6 where U20 players failed to get meaningful game time , particularly in the franchises with the more liberal interpretation of what Super 6 was actually designed for …. Ayr , Watsonians etc. To me it looks like the U20’s are just falling into the same trap , selecting a squad but not giving exposure to fringe players , particularly in certain positions.
    The commentator suggested France had started 40 different players thus far in the championship , Scotland will be some way off this I suspect in that many squad players have not even figured on the bench …
    Scotland have been combative and they have heart but are being let down by a poor system and questionable playing strategies / coaching.
    I felt Kenny Murray was last night a bit disingenuous to his players as it is the hierarchy that creates the environment. There is significant work to be done on many aspects of this before he can be allowed to be so critical of a team of players trying their best in very difficult circumstances and that are already disadvantaged by playing within a broken and disjointed system that does little to encourage development.

    • A lot of opinion there Grob. It would be better if perhaps you did your homework .Mr Chrystie was coach in last years comp and isn’t this time and obviously mostly a different set of lads as well.

      • Rugby fan – Rob Chrystie still involved with 20’s players , if you think he’s not , you are misguided , as Academy coach he works with these players regularly , you saw him on screen down at the England game …

  8. We weren’t world beaters when we won the last two matches and we aren’t a complete loss off the back of this match.

    “If you can meet success and failure and treat them both as impostors, then you are a balanced man, my son.” Kipling

    • We didn’t win the last two. We are one win in 17 since S6 started….if it wasn’t already clear S6 is not only not helping, its putting our youngsters even further behind. At least the club sides were letting the youth players get game time which would give them some chance of competing. The current system is letting our players down badly. Other nations see our youth teams as a joke and sadly they are correct. Massive change required at the top but we all know that won’t happen while the trough is still there.

      • Ah. Good point! I was several beers in at Richmond watching game on tv. Much better performance that night which was taken as signs of improvement.

  9. They looked like they didn’t know each other and appeared malnourished compared to their opponents.

  10. The bigger and better French low numbers let their high numbers joue! The legend of Agen, Phillippe Sella, would have enjoyed that platform and would have probably still done a job last night. Unfortunately the Scottish line out did not function last night and this appears to be our main attacking strategy. Pringle has obviously coached the driving maul well and which Brown seems to profit from. One dimensional. Not much heads up rugby going on despite Simpson at 10. Are we too reliant on pre planned structure rather than playing into space! Most obvious case in point over the tournament was 38 min v Wales, 15 v 13 and we still try and smash it down the middle. Madness and double madness last night and will be again v Ireland and Italy.
    Whilst Munn maybe a leader I would give the other 13’s in the squad a chance in the last two games, you need pace to defend the 13 channel and once in behind we are in trouble. This was glaringly obvious last night, first half v Wales only exception and Wales backs can play! Despite Simpson and Yule the Scottish back three must feel like they are waiting for a delivery from Hermes. All they do is hit rucks.
    No harm in rotating things now to see what the other squad members bring.

    • @Bry Spot on about the ‘smash it down the middle’ tactic. Across the three games, and most glaringly against a short handed Wales, that seemed to the default play. The wingers have barely touched the ball.

  11. After the Welsh game my comments about the Scottish front row received a few thumbs down, some upset mums perhaps. Well l told you, l thought our props were mince tonight, yes the French were big however good technique, core strength and a bit of grunt will cancel out bulk in the scrum unfortunately our props have neither the fact that they can’t carry or tackle doesn’t help. With Italy and the Irish waiting there’s more embarrassment to come, you just can’t play 2nd string props in U20’ rugby. its time to send some boys home, bring in lads that can scrum. For the the first time in the tournament the second row let us down. Against teams like France/ltaly/lreland you have to be up for a 80 minute fight given what l saw previously l was disappointed by their level of physicality and willingness to back in the fight, We’ve got some very good and capable backs in the first 10 to 15 minutes they showed what is possible, after that they just never had a chance with no or little defence in front of them.

  12. No one should be knocking the lads. France team older, with vastly more pro players drawn from a massively bigger pool. As a small Rugby nation everything is part of the pyramid tosupport the spear point of the first XV men and women. So let’s see how it goes on Park des Princes today. Mon then.

  13. I only caught the 2nd half but I think I saw enough to understand the huge disparity in the level of the teams. France were simply bigger (much bigger), stronger and faster. They are simply physically much more mature with one of their props an absolute monster who would have looked at home in their senior team. We were pummelled in the scrums and I actually feared for the safety of our front row in one where we were driven into the ground.

    You cant fault the effort and commitment of the Scots lads who tackled their hearts out but they hardly had the ball. The one area where they did let themselves down was the line out – I think they lost about 6 and won 1 in the time I watched which simply meant they conceded the ball to France every time. That can be sorted.

    A lot has and will be said about the level our guys play at, S6 et all but we cant suddenly unearth some huge rugby specimens, we just don’t produce people of the shear size that France and others do so we just need to focus on the technical aspects of the game eg line outs and do our best. No easy answers or quick fixes.

    • Utter nonsense. We produce lots of big lads but they get put off rugby early as they don’t enjoy the run up and down really fast ethos of mini and midi rugby that put off more robust players. If they do stick it out they get over looked by the SRU academy setup because they aren’t tall enough ( SRU seem to think you need to be 6’+ to be a prop) or don’t go to the right school or play at the right club.

  14. Well I thought the lads stuck at it, they might not have pleased Mr. Murray but I don’t think anybody can honestly say that the effort, if not the skill and execution, was lacking.
    A couple of weeks ago the proponents of Super6 were quick to suggest that our U20 lads winning after such a Fallow time was, it was suggested, in part owing to the experience of the Super6. I am afraid I still have to register my doubts about the efficacy of that formula.
    Kenny Murray – “We didn’t show enough energy and physicality to play at this level” well hang on a minute, those who were able to watch the game might just remember some of the commentary, and not only from this game but Italy v Ireland as well who are the next up oppositions for us.
    Montpellier, Treviso, Clermont Ferrand, Stade Francais and many, many other URC and Top 14 Clubs were mentioned as ‘home’ clubs for some of our opponents, has anyone in Italy or France heard of Southern Knights or Ayrshire Bulls
    For the standard that our U20’s play at domestically I thought they started well with determination but for whatever reason they were unable to keep that determination and show the same ‘expertise, experience, call it what you will of the opposition, the other game I watched, Italy and Ireland looked well drilled and skilled and the name dropping of the teams those players were linked to were every bit as stratospheric compared to those mentioned in the French fixture.
    This was always going to be a character rather than a skill and expertise lesson, I thought they stuck at it well, despite the obvious disparities, perhaps it will be a wake up call [were it needed] for what lies ahead in the final 2 fixtures.

  15. The lads gave everything they had, but no real surprise at the outcome. The French players are at a completely different level from the Welsh side that Scotland defeated last time out, some of them were physically incredible for u20’s. Disappointing to see so many unforced errors though, that certainly didn’t help things.

  16. A sobering night indeed, Rutherford impresses again and it’s hard to see why he doesn’t start. Hard to play rugby when set piece isn’t functioning but the French looked much more mature. A crowd of 10,000 too!


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