SCOTLAND Under-20s will be without Ollie Leatherbarrow for Friday’s Six Nations round two clash against Wales in Colwyn Bay because the back-row, who scored two tries in last weekend’s 24-41 loss to England, has been called into the Exeter Chiefs senior squad for their Premiership clash against Gloucester on Saturday.
Matthew Deehan has moved from blind-side flanker to take over at No 8, while Olujare Oguntibeju has been promoted from the bench to wear the number six jersey.
“Scottish Rugby’s mind-set is that if a young player gets picked to play professional rugby, whether that is with Edinburgh or Glasgow, or in this case Exeter, then we wouldn’t stand in his way,” said head coach Kenny Murray.
“Ollie is down there at Exeter University and has been involved with them through training, and support with rehab and so on, so it is a really strong relationship. It is a great opportunity for him to get exposure to playing in a Premiership rugby match, and it will be good for us as well because he’ll come back a better player for the experience.”
“Ollie carried really well for us last week and Matt [Deehan] is maybe not as explosive, but he is very, very physical,” Murray continued. “Looking back at his game, his ball carries were excellent, he is very physical and works very hard. We’re going to need some grafters down in Wales and Matt brings that to the back-row.
“It is good that he has that flexibility between six and eight, and eight is actually is preferred position. We’ll see how it goes and hopefully get Ollie back at some point in the campaign.”
Oguntibeju, who was born in Nigeria and currently plays for Ealing Trailfinders, qualifies for Scotland after living in the Pilton area of Edinburgh between the ages two and 14. “He’s got a bit of x-factor,” said Murray. “He’s a big man, he’s athletic and he likes the contact side of the game. So, he brings something that maybe other players don’t have.
“I thought it was tough on him last week. He came on during a period when we were under a bit of pressure, and I felt it was a bit harsh for the referee to give him a yellow-card. England had given away six penalties in their 22 and didn’t see a yellow-card yet we gave away two or three and got one – so I felt we were a bit hard done by.”
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Elsewhere, Mikey Jones takes over from Tom Banatvala (who has a leg knock) at loose-head prop, Murray Redpath – son of former Scotland captain and under-20s head coach Bryan – comes in at scrum-half having recovered from Covid, and Andrew Stirrat is rewarded for his efforts in training with a start at inside-centre ahead of Michael Gray.
“We have what we call an intent award in the camp and Andrew won that last week for everything he did in training,” explained Murray. “He’s strong, physical, a good tackler, so we just felt he’d earned the opportunity this week.”
Murray added that Scotland are not reading too much into Wales’ painful 53-5 hammering away to Ireland in their opening match of this season’s age-grade Six Nations campaign, and insisted that his side will be stronger as a result of their own round one loss.
“For us, it is going to be about showing the same physicality as we did against England for 50 minutes, and then making sure that we don’t make the fundamental errors in defence that cost us,” he said. “We made too many individual errors which they punished. At this level you can’t afford to beat yourself which we did at the weekend. There was three tries they didn’t have to work for, so you take those tries out the game and we win that game, so that was a lesson for the guys about playing 80 minutes instead of 50.
“Wales played against a very good Ireland side,” he added. “We’ve watched that back and I think they handled it quite well, to be fair to them. They’ve got a really strong line-out, and they made a lot of ground against Ireland from burst plays, and they moved the ball well at times.”
Scotland U20s (v Wales at Stadiwm Zip World, Colwyn Bay, on Friday @ 8pm: Robin Mc Clintock (Montpellier); Ross McKnight (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Munn (Boroughmuir Bears), Andy Stirrat (GHA), Ollie Melville (Newcastle University); Christian Townsend (Ayrshire Bulls/Glasgow Warriors), Murray Redpath (Newcastle University); Michael Jones (Heriot’sRugby/Edinburgh Rugby), Patrick Harrison (Edinburgh Rugby), Gregor Scougall (Currie Chieftains), Josh Taylor (Ealing Trailfinders), Max Williamson (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors), Olujare Oguntibeju (Ealing Trailfinders), Rhys Tait (Boroughmuir Bears/Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN, Matthew Deehan (Newcastle Falcons). Replacements: Gregor Hiddleston (GHA), Ali Rogers (Glasgow Hawks), Callum Norrie (Strathallan School), Jake Spurway (Durham University), Robert Gordon (ExeterUniversity), Jonty Cope (Durham University), Euan Cunningham (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors). Ben Evans (Heriot’s Rugby/Edinburgh Rugby).
Wales: Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby); Harri Houston (Ospreys), Eddie James (Scarlets), Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Oli Andrew (Dragons); Jac Lloyd (Bristol Bears), Archie Hughes (Scarlets); Rhys Barratt (Cardiff Met), Efan Daniel (Cardiff Rugby), Adam Williams (Dragons), Benji Williams (Ospreys), Ryan Woodman (Dragons), Tom Cowan (Bath Rugby),Ethan Fackrell (Cardiff Rugby), Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby) CAPTAIN. Replacements: Morgan Veness (Ealing Trailfinders), Joe Cowell (Cardiff Met), Ellis Fackrell (Ospreys), Lewis Jones (Ospreys), Morgan Morse (Ospreys), Morgan Lloyd (Dragons), Dan Edwards (Ospreys), Joe Westwood (Dragons).