Scotland under-19 head coach Colin Robertson named his 34-man training squad ahead of the two games against Italy (Sunday, 1 March, kick off midday, Lasswade) and away against France and stressed the chief objective is to provide a core of talent for the under-20 side in 2010.
The vast bulk of the squad have progressed from the successful under-18 programme including back rower Stuart McInally and stand-off Alex Blair.
But Robertson was keen to highlight the fact that a handful of players, who didn’t represent Scotland’s under-18 team last season, have been handed a chance to impress this time around.
Robertson said: “There are a number of guys in the squad who weren’t involved with the under-18s last year, but who have put their hands up for selection.
“Scottish Rugby does not close the door on young players. There is a good mix of players in the training squad and we’ve tried to be quite open.
“There are guys like scrum half Kris Hamilton from Caithness, who wasn’t in the 18s squad last year. He has been rewarded because we couldn’t leave him out; he has played so well.
“He is a nippy scrum half; he is sharp and quick with a good work ethic. He can be difficult to pin down.”
The training camp will take place at Lasswade on the evening of Monday 2 February and at Peffermill over the weekend of 14-15 of February.
With fixtures against Italy and France, Robertson is aiming to not only achieve positive results, but ensure the players continue to be familiar with international rugby before being involved in the under-20 Six Nations tournament next year.
He added: “The under-19s programme consists of only two internationals. But they are still international games against really tough opposition.
“Both the Italians and the French will offer different things to us, especially facing the French away from home.
“But the most important aspect for us is to build towards the under-20 team for 2010 and making sure the players are ready for the next challenge in their development.”
FORWARDS (19): Paul Creek (Colstons School), Andrew Fraser (Leeds Carnegie), Anthony Kent (Wasps), Nicky Little (Hawick) *, Craig Owenson (Musselburgh) *, Luke Pettie (Gala), Sam Blackwood (Glasgow Hawks), Mungo Strachan (Edinburgh Accies), Alun Walker (Currie), Grant Gilchrist (Stirling County) *, Aaron Hall (Newcastle Falcons), Matthew Reid (Heriots), Michael Walker (Lancaster University), Michael Fedo (Watsonians), Jason Hill (Stirling) *, Michael Maltman (Musselburgh) *, Stuart McInally (Watsonians) +, Calum Stidson-Nott (Harrow and Wasps), Ross Sutherland (Murrayfield Wanderers)
BACKS (15): Alex Black (Leeds Carnegie), Kris Hamilton (Caithness), Patrick Boyer (Glasgow Hawks), Ross Aitken (Howe of Fife) *, Matthew Scott (Currie), Alex Blair (Edinburgh Accies) +, Alec Dunbar (Selkirk) +, James Johnstone (Watsonians) *, Michael Tait (Kelso) *, Douglas Fife (Currie), Max Learmonth (Watsonians), Seumas MacKenzie (Murrayfield Wanderers), Callum Williams (London Scottish), Tom Brown (Edinburgh Accies) +, Euan Shand (Exeter University).
+National Academy Contracted Player
*National Academy Area Institute Supported
Players not considered because of injury: Callum Connor (Manchester University) and Robert Harley (West of Scotland)+