U20s 6N: Wales v Scotland: Kenny Murray backs Scots to benefit from better preparation

Seven debutants in starting XV for Colwyn Bay clash

Scotland Under-20s head coach Kenny Murray has named his team ti face Wales on Friday night. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland Under-20s head coach Kenny Murray has named his team ti face Wales on Friday night. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND Under-20s head coach Kenny Murray says he is confident that his players are both physically and psychologically better prepared for this year’s age-grade Six Nations than in the recent past, thanks to the creation of the Future XV to compete in last Autumn’s Super Series Championship and the implementation of an age-cap for players in both the Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors academies meaning that more of this squad have had a chance to train full-time in those professionalised environments.

“There’s definitely a physical difference in the players,” insisted the age-grade side’s head coach at lunchtime today [Wednesday], as he named his team for Friday night’s championship opener against Wales in Colwyn Bay  “We had a meeting last week around our pathway-pipeline stuff, and Alasdair Strokosch [the former Scotland back-rower who is now Scotland Under-20s lead S&C  coach] presented back on where the players are physically compared to where we were last year, both in a size perspective but also speed etc.

“So, we are definitely in a much better place physically. Getting players in those environments helps it. Like any sport, it’s about time on task – and if you are doing it full-time you are going to be in a better position to perform.”


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The Future XV endured a challenging Super Series Championship campaign, losing all 12 of their matches with a negative points differential of 337, but Murray reasoned that getting used to trying to punch above their weight and copping a few sore ones on the nose as a result can be more beneficial in preparing for this campaign than building winning momentum.

“From my perspective, it has been good for the boys,” he said. “We’re challenging the players to play at a higher level – it [Super Series] is tougher, it is more physical, they are playing against older players. But people talk about Super Series being tough, well it isn’t as tough as playing international under-20s level. France under-20s will be tougher than any Super Series team we come up against here. We need to close the gap between where we are and where these other nations are, so it has definitely been a positive for me.”

Among the seven debutants in the side for Friday night’s match is tight-head prop Ollie Blyth-Lafferty, who is selected ahead of the more experienced Callum Norrie.

“He’s a younger player who is still qualified to play under-18,” explained Murray. “He stands out as an exceptional prospect for Scottish rugby. He’s already sitting at over 130kgs, so he’s a big man for his age and he’s got a real love for scrummaging as you would imagine at that size.

“In the [training] camps, he’s been good. He’s scrummaged well in training, he played against a Wales development squad in December and scrummaged well then, so he deserves his starting place and that keeps other players on their toes.”

The other new faces are second-row Euan McVie, openside flanker Freddy Douglas, No 8 Tom Currie, half-backs Murdoch Lock and Isaac Coates, and full-back Fergus Watson.

Blindside flanker Liam McConnell captains the side, having been a co-captain last season, while second-row Ruaraidh Hart and centre Geordie Gwynn are the assistant captains.

“I think it is a fairly robust back-five of the scrum,” said Murray. “You’ve got Ru Hart and Euan McVie in the second-row, who both played Future XV and Ru has also had the chance to play for Glasgow against Ulster [in a pre-season friendly], while the back-row has a really exciting blend there, with Freddy Douglas a real fetcher-scavenger, Tom Currie a really good tackler and very physical, and Liam McConnell is the heartbeat of the team in terms of wearing his heart on his sleeve.”

Scotland managed their only win of the last three Six Nations campaign against Wales, when they held out for a nail-biting 18-17 success at Scotstoun just over 12 months ago, and another victory tis weekend would be a huge confidence boost ahead of the daunting task of welcoming England to the Hive Stadium seven days later.

“England, Ireland and France have really driven the standard of under-20s rugby in the last couple of years when I’ve been involved in it, so I think ourselves and Wales are in the position where we’ve got to really push on to keep with those guys,” acknowledged Murray.

“The Under-20 Six Nations is always an exciting time of year for everyone involved. The players have put a lot of time and effort into their own game over the last year and we can’t wait to see them out on the pitch on Friday.”

 

Scotland Under-20s (versus Wales  at Stadium CSM in Colwyn Bay on Friday at 6.45pm): F Watson; K Johnston, G Gwynn, K Yule, A Caqusau; I Coates, M Lock; R Deans, E Young, O Blyth-Lafferty, E McVie, R Hart, L McConnell, D Douglas, T Currie. Substitutes: J Blyth-Lafferty, A O’Driscoll, C Norrie, A Clarke, M Job, J Morris, E Davey, J Hocking.


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About David Barnes 3817 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.

23 Comments

  1. “copping a few sore ones on the nose as a result can be more beneficial in preparing for this campaign than building winning momentum“ – unfortunately the u20s haven’t been short on that experience lately, so I don’t follow that Murray logic. Surely better to embed the boys in more experienced teams to get a broader experience, than have them exist in a closed off u20s/Futures XV bubble?

  2. since when did young issac C become scottish
    quality and i mean quality player however sighned a 5 year contract last year to become scottish qualified in 5 years
    confused !!!

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    • interesting comments in response ,and being at school in scotland didn’t make you scottish boarding or not

      • Hmmm, someone wants to play for Scotland, has lived here since he was about 13, has won Scottish schools cup twice, plays in the futures team… you seem to know lots about his contract !

    • Having watched that game tonight, I know two u20 number 10’s that will likely be feeling very hard done by right now. Names? McLean and Greaves.

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  3. It sounds more promising from what Kenny is saying and I do agree that these Future games will be of some use as it gave a lot of players opportunity to play at a higher level although it was difficult to get continuity of selection. We will soon find out if we have advanced compared to the opposition. Good luck to the lads and I look forward to watching them on Friday.

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    • Last chance saloon for the coaching team. To a large extent they have put their faith in the same group of players that had a poor 2023. Time will tell if they were right to do so.

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  4. Know this age group very well, having seen most of them playing many times over the last 5 years (along with others that are nowhere near the squad). I’m biting my lip and saying nothing.

    Good luck to those selected.

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    • The forwards should be competitive. There are a couple of others you could argue a case for, but it’s not far off full strength based on what I’ve seen.

  5. The additional preparation this past year can only help. Murray knows what he is doing and with ‘Stroker’ now installed as S&C they should take no prisoners. Many have mocked the ‘future’ team being parachuted into the super 6 and the repeated humpings being dished out but in any sport you won’t get better continually playing teams that are worse than you, so let’s hope it works.
    As for Ollie Blythe Lafferty, at 130kg sounds like he should be keeping his boots ready in case there’s any more disasters with our tight head crisis and he’s called up to the seniors.

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    • Both Norrie and Blyth-lafferty are promising young tightheads coming through who could have a real impact in the proffessional games over the next decade and help solve our Tighthead vulnerabilities (could we be starting to get this right with Walker also?). They just need to be managed correctly now. I’d be assigning both of them to a pro-team and the SRU forcing Edinburgh and Glasgow to give these guys a good number of minutes off the bench etc in the easier games. Get rid of De Bruin, Rae and Pieretto (no offense to those guys). Give them plenty of experience around Nel while he is still around and Fagerson.

      Excited to see the progression of the U20 from last season, i’d like to think there has been a tremendous benefit and wake-up call to these young up and comers that they have not been getting from full amateur.

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    • I’m very curious to see how much progress has been made.

      At u20 level it goes without saying that they should all have developed a lot physically over the last year – that’s nature, add in solid S&C training and the difference in 12 months should be significant.

      The thing that completely baffled me (that I thought was 100% wrong), was having a Futures Squad in the first place. A load of inexperienced lads with no senior players to develop them and guide them through games – that just didn’t make any sense to me at all!

      Maybe results will show that I’m totally wrong, and that the Futures idea was a masterstroke! We’ll know in 6 weeks!

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