Under-20 head coach Peter Wright is charging his players with the responsibility of ensuring Scotland remain in the top 12 countries in the world as they depart for the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa next month.
Wright has named a 28-strong squad today, comprising 16 forwards and 12 backs, and captained by the Edinburgh Rugby stand-off Harry Leonard. Wright's appraisal of the task ahead in Cape Town is starkly realistic.
“We have to ensure that we preserve our position in the Junior World Championship in the future and avoid relegation to the Junior World Trophy.
“Our realistic ambition would be to get into the battle for places between five and eight. We decided on a 16/12 split between forwards and backs because that will give us two full packs to work with and we know the physicality of the teams that we’ll be facing,” he said.
The Scots will meet Australia, France and Argentina in their pool games and that will be a real test of their forwards’ mettle.
“We are giving 28 players a fantastic opportunity to test themselves against Southern Hemisphere teams and against Pacific islanders and that’s an experience the majority have not faced before.
“I think it also gives the majority of our players a really graphic insight of what it will take to become a top-class international rugby player. This tournament will let them mark themselves against the best players in their peer group in the world,” Wright added.
Five players have been added to the squad who did not feature during the most recent under-20 Six Nations campaign: full-back/centre Keith Buchan and lock Stuart Smith - who have both graduated from the Scotland age-grade structure – Gala blindside flanker Gary Graham, son of the former Scotland prop George Graham, Jed forward Andrew Nagle and Napier University student Alex Henderson. All were involved with the Scotland under-20 A team this season.
Scotland under-20 squad for the IRB Junior World Championship:
Backs – Tommy Allan (Western Province), Mark Bennett (Clermont Auvergne), Keith Buchan, Michael Crawley* (both Boroughmuir), Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Rugby/Edinburgh Accies), Robbie Fergusson (Ayr), Sam Hidalgo Clyne (Scotland 7s/Heriot’s), Harry Leonard (Edinburgh Rugby/Boroughmuir) CAPTAIN, Murray McConnell (Glasgow Warriors/Ayr), Finn Russell (Falkirk), Tom Steven (Glasgow Hawks) and Matt Torrance (Ospreys)
Forwards – Alex Allan (Loughborough Univ), Jamie Bhatti (Stirling County), Will Bordill (Sale Sharks), Mitch Eadie (Bristol), Gary Graham (Gala), Alex Henderson (Boroughmuir), Robin Hislop (Edinburgh Rugby/Boroughmuir), Andrew Nagle (Jed-Forest), Andrew Redmayne* (Dundee HSFP), Callum Reid (Edinburgh Accies), Gavin Robertson (Dundee HSFP), Fergus Scott* (Currie), Adam Sinclair (Stirling County), Stuart Smith (Aberdeen Grammar Rugby), Jamie Swanson (Boroughmuir) and George Turner (Edinburgh Rugby/Stewart’s-Melville FP)
* = Supported by the sportscotland Institute of Sport as Regional Academy players
Head coach: Peter Wright
Assistant coaches: Simon Cross and Bryan Easson
Doctor: Dave Pugh
Physiotherapist: Sandi Lyall
Manager: Andy Miller
Friday 25 May – depart UK
Saturday 26 May – arrive South Africa. Based in Stellenbosch for training week
Monday 4 June – v Australia, kick-off 2.30pm (local) at University of Western Cape, Cape Town
Friday 8 June – v France, kick-off 5pm (local) at University of Western Cape, Cape Town
Tuesday 12 June – v Argentina, kick-off 2.30pm (local) at University of Western Cape, Cape Town
Sunday 17 June – opposition, venue and kick-off depend on pool results
Friday 22 June – opposition, venue and kick-off depend on result in previous match.