New faces and missing men in Scotland squad for World Rugby U20 Trophy

Head coach Kenny Murray names six debutants in 28-strong squad

Liam McConnell will once again captain Scotland at next month's World Rugby U20 Trophy. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Liam McConnell will once again captain Scotland at next month's World Rugby U20 Trophy. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

KENNY MURRAY has named six potential debutants in his 28-strong Scotland squad for next months World Rugby U20 Trophy, which is being hosted at Hive Stadium in Edinburgh.

Liam McConnell returns from an ankle injury which has kept him out since round two of the Six Nations to once again captain the side. Centre/wing Geordie Gwynn and fellow back row Tom Currie have been named as vice-captains.

The new faces are: Ollie Blyth-Lafferty (a tight-head prop who was blocked from playing during the Six Nations because he was too young but has now turned 18), Jake Shearer (another 18-year-old prop from Ayr), Seb Stephen (a hooker who represented Scotland at under-18 level in 2023 out of Glenalmond/Aberdeen Grammar before taking a year out in New Zealand where he played for the University of Waikato), Dylan Cockburn (a back-rower who played for Melrose and Southern Knights last season), Connor McAlpine (a scrum-half who came through George Watson’s College and Watsonians) and Ludo Kolade (a centre from Harlequins).


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“Ludo was in training with us during the Six Nations but had a bit of a lower leg injury which kept him out of being selected,” explained Murray. “He came on our radar through Peter Walton, who is our ‘SQ Performance Player Transition Manager’. He’s now back to full fitness and looking great in training.”

Among the missing names are stand-off Isaac Coates and winger Amena Caqusau who are ineligible for this tournament. Neither player was born in Scotland, nor were their parents and grandparents, and their primary homes are not in Scotland. They were okay to play in the Six Nations because they attended boarding schools in the country but this is a World Rugby tournament which means they must complete the residency requirement.

Scrum-half Murdoch Lock has dropped out the academy set-up at Bath and has taken a full-time job which means he can’t commit to the programme this summer.

Other notable absentees include three more back-three men in Kerr Johnston (who picked up an AC injury playing in the Super Series Sprint with Glasgow Warriors but will hopefully be fit to join the squad mid-tournament if there are any injuries), Finn Douglas (who also injured his AC joint, playing in a touch rugby game last week) and Jack Brown (who injured his ankle in training a couple of weeks ago).

“That’s the life of coaching Scotland Under-20s – everything is going well and then you suddenly get a load of injuries in the same position,” reflected Murray with a rueful smile.

“But we’ve still got a lot of good cover in the back-three. Fergus Watson is an outstanding talent, Geordie Gwynn has been one of our most consistent players in the last year or so, Fin Doyle has played well when he’s had a chance, Jack Hocking has played a lot at Super Series and can cover full-back and Ludo can play centre or wing. So, we’ve still got really good quality in there.”

Of the 28 players named, 25 players have come through Scottish schools and clubs, with Kolade, Hocking and Pontypridd hooker Gavin Parry having come through the SQ system.

 

 

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Scotland will play three pool matches against Samoa on 2nd July, Hong Kong China on 7th July and Japan on 12th July, and if they manage to come top of their table then they will play the winner of Pool B which consists of Kenya, Netherlands, Uruguay and the USA in a one-off match on 17th July to earn promotion back into the top tier World Rugby U20 Championship next year.

Scotland were relegated out of the Championship in 2019 following a 34-59 loss to Fiji in the 11th/12th place play-off. The Trophy did not go ahead in 2020, 2021 and 2022 due to Covid, and when it returned last year the Scots missed out on promotion after a shock 26-37 defeat to Uruguay in their final pool match.

Murray was bullish about Scotland’s prospected of putting things right this summer.

“We’ve spoken from day one of our camp about how the goal is to go and win this tournament,” stated Murray. “The expectation is a bit different from the Six Nations where people expect England, France or Ireland to come out on top. Our aim is to get back to the top table of under-20s rugby so we’ve talked about embracing that pressure and thriving in that environment.

“It is not very often you get an opportunity to win an international rugby tournament on your own soil, and there’s not many men’s teams in Scotland have won international tournaments, so this is a real opportunity for us all.”

 

Scotland squad for the 2024 World Rugby U20 Trophy –

Props: Ollie Blyth-Lafferty (Edinburgh Rugby), Robbie Deans (Edinburgh Rugby), Callum Norrie (Glasgow Warriors), Callum Smyth (Glasgow Warriors) and Jake Shearer (Ayrshire Bulls/Ayr RFC).

Hookers: Jerry Blyth-Lafferty (Edinburgh Rugby), Gavin Parry (Watsonians/Pontypridd RFC) and Seb Stephen (unattached).

Second-rows: Ryan Burke (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaraidh Hart (Glasgow Warriors) and Euan McVie (Edinburgh Rugby)

Back-rows: Dylan Cockburn (Southern Knights/Melrose RFC), Tom Currie (Edinburgh Rugby), Freddy Douglas (Edinburgh Rugby), Liam McConnell (Edinburgh Rugby) and Jonny Morris (Glasgow Warriors).

Scrum-halves: Conor McAlpine (Watsonians) and Hector Patterson (Edinburgh Rugby)

Stand-offs: Andrew McLean (Boroughmuir Bears) and Matthew Urwin (Glasgow Warriors)

Centres: Ludo Kolade (Harlequins/Bath University), Findlay Thomson (Watsonians), Johnny Ventisei (Glasgow Warriors) and Kerr Yule (Glasgow Warriors).

Back-three: Geordie Gwynn (Ealing Trailfinders/Brunel University), Finlay Doyle (Loughborough University), Jack Hocking (Edinburgh Rugby) and Fergus Watson (Glasgow Warriors).

 

Scotland U20 World Rugby U20 Trophy matches –

  • Tuesday 2 July: Scotland U20 v Samoa U20 (kick off 5.15pm – live on BBC ALBA)
  • Sunday 7 July: Scotland U20 v Hong Kong China U20 (kick off 2.30pm – live on BBC ALBA
  • Friday 12 July: Scotland U20 v Japan U20 (kick off 7.45pm – live on BBC ALBA)
  • Wednesday 17 July: Scotland U20 v TBC (kick off TBC – live on BBC ALBA)

 

 


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About David Barnes 4028 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.

43 Comments

  1. Again we go in to another tournament with the same coaching team that has consistently failed in the last 3 years. What review was done after the 6 nations embarrassment and it is no surprise there has not been any comment from Kenny Teflon Murray. It is inconceivable that we will not win this tournament and of course everything will be rosy again. Anyone who believes this is delusional
    The system as we all know is not fit for purpose and there is no change coming quickly. Yes there are some very good coaches in the system but there are more who are yes men and are in there not to rock or god forbid have an opinion. On selection once you are in the system it is very difficult to be dropped even though other player do progress later and should always be considered however this does not happen and who is really selecting. If you finish 18s and have not made that squad you are basically dumped by the Academy all support gone S/C gone training gone completely dumped and forgotten about. There was talk of a follow up group but this has not happened yet and it will be surprising if it does. So we will look forward to winning the 20s tournament and all the doin that goes with it but the gaping holes in the system will still be there.

    • Indeed.
      The vitriol spewed on here to those of us who are looking out for the boys, only want the best for them and who hope they will get a fair crack at the whip, is telling.
      The coaches know what way the wind blows, not their fault but the fault of an antiquated embarrassing structure.
      If more people had the balls to speak out the sooner we would see change. Personally, I don’t see what is wrong in with wanting a winning formula and winning teams but heyho, lets keep doing the same old same old…
      One more thing on the other side of the coin – selecting players who may not be up to the job just to keep from upsetting established ways is actually poor form. These boys are led to believe they are the cream of the crop then go on to not perform as desired. This could mean their mental health deteriorates.

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      • “vitriol spewed on here to those of us who are looking out for the boys”

        translation

        “I really don’t like it when people point out I’m not telling the truth”

    • Completely concur with these comments. My son got dumped out of the U18 Academy system this year because as an early 17 year old he finished school this year and told the coaches he was looking for a job. This apparently wasn’t conducive to the Academy system and so they took the opportunity to cut him. Pretty sad for a lad who has dedicated 6 days a week training for the last 18 months and was also invited into the under 18 Scotland development camp in wales last year. Unfortunately I’m not as well connected as the rugby directors at the fee paying schools, if your face fits it would seem.

  2. The coaches at the academies are coaches at private schools and they are never going to select players that aren’t in their school, why would they!
    They would be silly to use a player better than their own – it would affect their CV and career.

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        • You said “they are never going to select players that aren’t in their school” and when challenged that changed to “What about the ones who do”.

          By your own admission you are simply making things up (as you are below).

          Do you only post to show your ignorance?

        • FYI that’s hundred percent not true!
          Go read the boys info on line and then you will see that’s not true.

          • Recent contracts handed out were to either players who are currently at private schools or have recently accepted an offer to go to one.
            We shouldn’t be so gullible to think these coaches choices could not be loaded.
            What would they stand to gain from selecting players over their own? They have to think about their career not to mention the very annoyed parents wondering why their child isn’t being picked by a coach who’s salary they contribute towards. Do you really believe that not picking their school players is good for their work credentials?

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            • This is just complete and utter nonsense and imagine it’s only been posted for ‘click-bait’ purposes.

              Certainly on the east coast, those boys at private schools who have progressed, have progressed (to my mind anyway) on merit alone.

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    • There is a lot of truth in this. I saw it with my own eyes when my son went through the district selection process (and no grudges from my side, as my son progressed to the final stage). A batch of Glasgow based private school boys kept progressing, some justifiably, some clearly weren’t progressing on merit. It was the talk of the parents at the time, as I recall the main coach taught at their school.

  3. Dear Scotia, or should it be Aunty Scotia … nobody would argue that the occasional talented player might be unfortunate enough to miss out on the Scotland Future/ Under20/ Academy system, but your desperately negative rants reek of a perceived personal injustice. Having watched these boys over the last couple of years, I’m confident you’ll see a bunch who have worked tirelessly and improved to a man (or boy). Judge for yourself a week on Tuesday at the Hive … hopefully they’ll get your vote on their big day.

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    • No doubt they have all improved. If you don’t improve between the ages of 16-19 with regular coaching and S&C there would be something massively wrong. Ive seen many of the lads playing over the last few years, some of them many times, and in certain cases I’ve been far more impressed by others that aren’t in the squad. People talk and form opinions (I’m one of them!), the lads themselves talk about who they rate in the squad and who they don’t. I know a few of the squad, I’ve heard some of the chat, they themselves don’t think all of the best players are in the academy. I just find that very frustrating, especially when results are poor.

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    • No doubt they have all improved. If you don’t improve between the ages of 16-19 with regular coaching and S&C there would be something massively wrong. Ive seen many of the lads playing over the last few years, some of them many times, and in certain cases I’ve been far more impressed by others that aren’t in the squad. People talk and form opinions (I’m one of them!), the lads themselves talk about who they rate in the squad and who they don’t. I know a few of the squad, I’ve heard some of the chat, they themselves don’t think all of the best players are in the academy. I just find that very frustrating, especially when results are poor.

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    • Sorry Alltalk but thats complete bollocks
      Scotia is right the squad selection is poor and lazy
      To answer PL point naming players is futile because its purely subjective Scotia may like one player PL an other and your going ti defend your boys selection
      What l think Scotia is saying that boys should be selected on merit.
      Eg. The front row of Norrie JBL and Deans
      Which is probably the worst front row in the history of U20’s rugby.
      Before mums and dads start smashing the key boards. Just think.
      As a unit they have presided over what 3 dismally disappointing 6 Nations, 1 Autumn series. 1 immensely disappointing trip to Kenya. Not forgetting a Futures outing in last years Super6 when despite all the hype surrounding the impact they would make after falling in Kenya they were Dimsall.
      To top it all off they were shoehorned into this season Sprint Series where yet again they showed how inept they are. Just Look at Norries contribution for Wolves which wss embarrassing to say the least.
      And yet these boy are handed cap after cap at the expense of boys totally ignored by a myopic and conceited system which refuses to admit it’s wrong.
      So Alltalk while you sit in your ivory tower and boast that your lad plays for Scotland don’t forget your thumbing your nose at the boys, the coaches, the clubs who work tirelessly to improve our game.

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      • I wouldn’t go down the route of naming individual players, but the same applies to the backs. Some lads have been very ineffective, both in attack and defence, but they are handed cap after cap. I know for a fact that Prem coaches have recommended players to Kenny Murray, only for them to be completely blanked… not even called in to have a look at them in training, that’s negligence for me.

        • In retrospect it was probably harsh to use the lads as an example, being a front row man I’m frustrated that so much great talent has missed out. I know the boys work hard and they should be proud of their achievements, they didn’t pick themselves and who wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to play for your country. So l do apologise to them. I was trying to highlight an incredibly unfair system where regardless of how other boys work hard to improve their game there is no pathway for them in what is effectively a closed shop. What is really infuriating is some on this forum just refuse to see the injustice of it all and think that it is acceptable to continue to plod down the same track that’s littered with wasted talent and opportunities.

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          • But you’ve named names so the cat is out the bag apology or not and not mentioned who should have been selected. JBL has only played in the last 2 6n for example, most of his first one from the bench. He got injured in the first match in Kenya too and came home.

            Calling age group players the worst front row in under 20s history is something else though. You sound old enough to know better and should be embarrassed with yourself.

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          • But you’ve named names so the cat is out the bag apology or not and not mentioned who should have been selected. JBL has only played in the last 2 6n for example, most of his first one from the bench. He got injured in the first match in Kenya too and came home.

            Calling age group players the worst front row in under 20s history is something else though. You sound old enough to know better and should be embarrassed with yourself.

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          • What an ignorant comment that is. I had the privilege of watching JBL through his midi career and I didn’t see one opposition hooker who could lace his boots and they played against a lot of clubs and private schools in that time. He also propped during that time, as well as the occasional outside centre appearance so he has a multitude of skills. If you watched this group in their opening fixture against England at under20 level last year at The Stoop you would remember JBL at his best taking the ball at pace and bouncing off defenders making 30+ yards into the 22. I would summarise him as deceptively strong, hugely determined and someone with the ability to stay on his feet much longer than most. Not sure what there isn’t to like there and where he falls short against some of the others not selected. Certainly didn’t see them in any of the age grade games the boys went through to reach the Scotland squad.

      • Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant. The front row of Deans, JBL and Norrie have only been involved fully in one Six Nations (2024). Neither Deans nor JBL were involved in 2022, as both played in U18s that year. Norrie was very much a second choice in that’s year’s tournament. In 2023, Norrie was injured after 9 mins against Wales and so missed the majority of the tournament. I can only assume that the “Autumn Series” you reference is the Summer Series in 2022 played in Italy? Again no Deans or JBL and Norrie still not first choice at TH. The matches in last years U20 Trophy where those three were involved from the start ended in victory (Zimbabwe, USA and Samoa) were all won. The match none of the three started (Uruguay) was lost.
        I would argue that the whole purpose the Super Six was to expose young Scottish players to a higher level of match intensity, hence the Futures team in the Super Six. Most of the squad who played in the U20 Trophy missed around 50% of the games and when they returned, there was an improvement in the Futures XV results.
        “Shoe-horned” into this year’s Sprint Series is a strange phrase to use, particularly as I would again highlight that the purpose of the tournament was (allegedly) to develop young Scottish talent, it could have worked (Edinburgh A performances and Glasgow A performance v Ayrshire Bulls showed this).
        By my reckoning, Norrie has 18 U20 caps (depends if you count Spain match in prep for last year’s U20 trophy). The last TH to achieve that number of caps at this level was Zander. That didn’t work out too badly.
        But, clearly as you allude to, Scotland U20s problems are down to “the worst front row in U20s history” and everything else is absolutely fine.

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        • Good post, I couldn’t work out what the autumn series was either having a cursory search on the internet.

          We all get frustrated with stuff but getting selected isn’t their fault.

  4. As always I look at the u20 squad and think there are some glaring omissions, especially amongst the backs. I’ve seen lads put in man of the match performances at Prem level, yet they’re not good enough to get near a squad that hasn’t performed well at all under Kenny Murray… bizarre.

    The squad they have should be good enough to win the first two games, but they’ll be up against it against Japan.

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      • Along with others I’ve given the names several times in the past. Kind of pointless now, as all will be too old for u20’s after this summer. Amongst them is one that was the top try scorer for a Prem club aged 18, and a 19 year old that got Player of the Year this season (neither got a sniff of 20’s rugby). The coaches/selectors stick with the same lads in the academy no matter what, mostly selected aged 15/16. If they bring in an outsider to replace them it’s an admission that their player development has failed. You could take the view that certain coaches are protecting themselves to the detriment of getting the best team on the park.

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        • While I don’t disagree with your point about players from outwith the academy not getting chances with U20s, I note that no names have been mentioned.
          You say “along with others I’ve given the names several times in the past”, yet every time I’ve asked this question to people on here who make these comments, they never provide any names. So please do. Even if these players will no longer be available for U20s, they will surely still be playing high level rugby in Scotland and could theoretically be picked up by a Pro team in the future.

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          • Know the lad that was the top try scorer for his Prem club aged 18. Saw him running riot in a couple of games at the Currie 7’s a few weeks ago against good opposition, including experienced district players. I believe his involvement in playing for another country at age group level is possibly held against him by the SRU. I’ve not seen a more dangerous back in the current Scotland u20’s squad.

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  5. Nope Coates I believe was at School in Edinburgh from 13 years old so has been In SCOTLAND for six years already, but rules state school years don’t apply sadly.

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    • Coates may well have gone to school in Edinburgh but his main home residence is in England. He does not qualify on residence or through parentage. So it must be questioned as to why played so much of 6N when they knew he couldn’t play in this tournament where promotion is required to move forward. Kind of odd for me. Coates will not qualify until he has lived five years in Scotland as his main residence. Hope they go well.

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      • No offence to the kid but its ridiculous that the SRU have been putting resources into a kid who isn’t even Scottish qualified. Surely the knew and this wasn’t a surprise.

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        • so typical of our useless system and we paid Mallinder £300k a year for 5 years to sit in his house in England. Criminal was has been going on at the SRU.

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        • Agreed, fully expect this player will disappear from the Scottish scene, assuming he would be about 24 before he would be eligible at the earliest?

        • That’s why the SRU sighned him up on a 5 year deal last year I agree why was he involved in six nations over someone else
          Kenny murray has a lot to answer

  6. Essential for the development of Scottish rugby’s emerging young talent to win this Trophy competition, thereby gaining a place in WR’s top-level U-20’s Championship next year. Fingers crossed!

  7. Sometimes rugby eligibility rules are just confusing. I presumed Coates came to Merchiston fairly late in his schooling but I remember seeing Caqusau playing for Caledonia U16 in season 2019-20 so he must have started at Queen Victoria in Summer of 2019 at latest – 5 years ago. How long do they need to live here to qualify?
    Bizarre.

    Good that big Ollie Blyth Lafferty is now allowed to play at this age grade having been playing against adults since last Summer but somehow not being eligible for U20 international rugby in the Spring.

    No Murdoch Lock? Do we know if he is injured or overtaken by the other 9s?

    Some very good prospects in this side, notably Fergus Watson, Hector Patterson, Ollie Blyth Lafferty, Euan McVie and Freddy Douglas….lets hope they can put whole team performances out and achieve the goal they have set themselves.

    • Hi David,

      Murdoch Lock is no longer in the academy set up in England and has taken a job that means he can’t commit to the u20s programme.

      I should have mentioned this in the main article.

      DB

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