Scotland’s youngest age-grade side will kick-off the first of three matches at the BMW Wellington International Festival against Wales tomorrow (kick-off 11am).
Their first chance for the under-16s to benchmark themselves against their home nations rivals will then continue against England South and France on Wednesday and Friday respectively, as the youngsters take their first steps in international representative rugby.
Scotland under-16 head coach, Gary Mercer, said: “We’ve a really exciting group of boys with a lot of promise.
“We came together well as a group two weeks prior to this tournament and what’s been beneficial is that we’ve been able to see our opposition in action before we take to the field tomorrow, so the boys have seen the level and intensity at which they need to compete.
“We’ve been working on our intensity and replicating that in training but we have a lot of very good skills and will look to put that together this week. We’ve measured ourselves in training and now our measure will come from Test rugby against very good opposition.
“It’ll be a massive test, something that the boys will thrive on, and will come away from here with a better understanding of the level they need to be at to compete at international level.”
A former New Zealand rugby league internationalist, Mercer joined Sean Lineen in the switch from Glasgow Warriors (where he was defence coach alongside the then head coach) to the national age-grade ranks.
The experienced pair now operate at opposite ends of the age-grade spectrum, charged with developing the best players from the national and exile set-up.
Mercer explained that the move to work in grassroots rugby from the senior professional game is one that he has embraced fully, with the under-16s taking heart from progress made by the under-20 side led by Lineen in their 6 Nations Championship.
He added: “Returning to grassroots is very exciting and I’m very happy to be working with this talented group.There is great character and I’m sure of them could be future stars.
“There have been some very good performances from our age-grades this season and I believe we're starting to see the benefit of the work carried out to get our regional programme working right, so when they arrive at international level they are ready to compete.”
Scottish Rugby’s head of player development, Stephen Gemmell, added: “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 Higher at the first sitting.
Scotland U16 squad: Lyall Archer (Highland), Craig Cowan, (Jedburgh GS / Jedburgh), Fergus Bradbury (Oban HS / Oban Lorne), Andrew Davidson (Kelvinside Academy / Glasgow Hawks), Scott Cummings (Kelvinside Academy), Lewis Wynne (St Mungo’s HS / Stirling County), Angus Neilson (Glasgow Academy / Glasgow Hawks), Zach Mercer (Williamwood HS/GHA), Dan Nutton (Merchiston Castle School), Adam Hastings (George Watsons College), Jacob Adamson (Dollar Academy), Cameron Gray (Balerno HS/Currie), Sam Trowbridge (Wellington College), Luke Taylor (Edinburgh Academy / Musselburgh), Saul Melvin-Farr (Edinburgh Academy / Currie), Adam Nicol (Queen Ann HS/Dunfermline), Jack Solman (Kelvinside Academy/Glasgow Hawks), Ross Gordon (Stewart Melville College), Lee Scott (Dumfries), Calum Harris (Bell Baxter HS / Dundee Eagles), Scott McGinley (Currie HS / Currie), Henry Sampson (Dundee HS / Dundee Eagles), Robbie Nairn (Currie HS / Currie), Charlie Lonergan (St Aloysius College / GHA), Josh Henderson (Strathallan School / Howe of Fife), Bruce Sorbie (Robert Gordon’s School).
- HS (High School)
- GS (Grammar School)
BMW Wellington International Festival
Monday 1 April – Scotland U16 v Wales U16 (kick-off 11am)
Wednesday 3 April – Scotland U16 v England South U16 (kick-off 2.30pm)
Friday 5 April – Scotland U16 v France U16 (kick-off 10.30am)
Coaching team: Gary Mercer (head coach), Roddy Deans (assistant coach), Jamie Dempsey (assistant coach).