Scotland will compete at the Wellington Festival in Berkshire from this weekend and, for the first time, are sending an under-16 development squad to the event.
In previous years Scotland have competed in the festival at under-17 level, but involving the younger age-group can have benefits. That’s the view of Scottish Rugby’s Head of Player Development, Stephen Gemmell. He said: “Put simply it’s about us trying to benchmark our players much earlier and make like for like comparisons against, for example, England, France and Wales, who involve their under-16 squads in the Festival."
Gemmell continued: “By identifying players at an earlier age we can look at a five year programme of taking our most talented players through to under-20 level with appropriate support across coaching and conditioning.
“This also enables us to free up time during under-17, which is a vital year academically, where players are looking to get their Highers at the first sitting.”
Work on honing the squad began last August through Scottish Rugby’s Pathway and Exiles programmes.
There followed a national preparation camp involving around 70 players last October, then regional games as the prelude to 46 players being invited to trial games at Murrayfield last month.
Two weekend training camps and a 38-5 win in a warm-up match against Newcastle Falcons Academy have helped coaches Davie Wilson, Ben Fisher and Jamie Dempsey finalise their 26-player squad for Wellington where they will play three matches over six days.
Ben Fisher said: “The Wellington Festival is the first step on the ladder for these players. It’s going to be a big challenge for them in what will be a week of living and breathing international rugby. It’s about them learning to deal with quick turnarounds.”
The Scots’ matches are as follows:
Sunday 8 April v England South, kick-off 3.30pm
Wednesday 11 April v France, kick-off 11.30am
Friday 13 April v England North, kick-off 10am
Scotland under-16 squad: Forwards: Lyall Archer (Highland/Inverness Royal Academy), Dan Elkington (Sedbergh), Zander Fagerson (Strathallan), Gary Robertson (Gala Red Triangle/Galashiels Academy), Danny Dineen (Stirling County/Dollar Academy), Craig Cowan (Jed-Forest/Jedburgh GS), Jamie Ritchie (Strathallan), Ali Miller (Musselburgh/George Watson’s College), Scott Burnside (North Berwick/North Berwick HS), Stephen Ainslie (Berwick/Berwick Community HS), Lewis Wynne (Stirling County/St Mungo’s HS, Falkirk), Chris Jollands (Dundee Eagles/HS of Dundee), Luke Callaghan (Corsham/ St John’s, Marlborough), Fraser Christie (Stewart’s-Melville College)
Backs: Hugh Fraser (London Irish/Halliford School, Shepperton), Reuben Norville (Reading Abbey), Ben Robbins and Adam Hastings (both George Watson’s College), Duncan Leese (Dundee Eagles/HS of Dundee), Josh Laird (Kirkcaldy/Buckhaven HS), Ruairi Howarth (Gala Red Triangle), James Couper (Glasgow Hawks/Kelvinside Academy), Craig Wilson (Kilmarnock/Loudon Academy), James Francis (Effingham/Leatherhead & Epsom College), Jon Price (Madras College FP/Madras College), Craig Hunter (Stewart’s-Melville College)
Head coach: Davy Wilson
Coaches: Ben Fisher and Jamie Dempsey
Analyst: Chris Dewsnap
Manager: Clint Lanyon
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Mike Legget
Doctor: Stan Hannah
Physiotherapist: Carly Cowell