Scotland under-18 head coach Eddie Pollock today named two sides of Scotland’s top young talent for a crucial preparation clash this Sunday (23 February, kick-off 2pm) on the Murrayfield back pitches.
The fixture is the last chance for coaches to assess the players in a competitive context before the age-grade’s competitive campaign gets underway against England in March.
Those picked to play for Scotland XV under-18 are one step closer to that international honour but will first have to face the Scotland District under-18 squad, a team well aware of the significance of bettering their ear-marked opposition.
Such an opportunity was realised by London Scottish back-row and now Scotland under-20 captain Tommy Spinks whose battling performance for the districts squad two seasons ago catapulted him into the representative set-up.
Head coach Eddie Pollock: “We’ve picked an initial squad of 24 to represent Scotland under-18, with an eye on the England game in a fortnight’s time. It's our last opportunity to really run the rule over everyone at the same time, in like-for-like positions.
It’s a very important fixture because it allows a large part of the Scotland under-18 squad to have a quality and intense warm-up game before the international.
“All of the players in the district squad will look at this as an opportunity to force their way in and, although we’ve picked an initial squad in the XV-side, it’s certainly not in tablets of stone.
"There’s still a lot to play for which will create a very competitive situation.”
The match can be considered the climax of the season-long preparations for this age group, with a boosted programme of skills sessions and double-header, pro-aligned, Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors derbies boosting the pre-existing programme.
Pollock added: “The programme has been good. We’ve managed to get through a lot of work this season with this greater squad of 30-40 boys.
“We’ve tried to keep the squads bigger for longer and I’ve been pleased with the depth of quality overall, not just in the 23 that will progress to the internationals.
England in a fortnight’s time is going to be a huge challenge but we have worked exceptionally hard to give the boys the best preparation possible.
"We're all looking forward to the international campaign getting underway.”
Scotland under-18 programme
SCOTLAND XV UNDER-18
Forwards: Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks RFC), Murray McCallum (Strathallan / Dunfermline RFC), Callum Sheldon (Queen Elizabeth School / Newcastle Falcons), Gary Robertson (Gala Wanderers RFC), Lewis Anderson (Marr College / Ayr RFC), Jake Kerr (George Watson’s College / Watsonians RFC)*, Stephen Ainslie (Loretto School / Berwick RFC)*, Andrew Davidson (Kelvinside Academy / Glasgow Hawks RFC), Jamie Ritchie (Strathallan / Howe of Fife)*, Joseph Hughes (Whitgift School), Ally Miller (George Watson’s College / Watsonians RFC)*, Lewis Wynne (Stirling County RFC), Scott Burnside (Heriots FP RFC)*, Matthew Smith (Stirling High School / Stirling County RFC).
Backs: Hugh Fraser (Merchiston Castle School)*, Andrew Manson (Stewarts Melville College), Adam Hastings (Millfield School), Rory Hutchison (MPW Cambridge / Shelford RFC), Josh Laird (Strathallan School / Kirkcaldy RFC), George Taylor (Loretto School / Melrose RFC), Ben Robbins (George Watson’s College), Reuben Norville (St. Pauls (London)/London Irish), Robbie Nairn (George Watson’s College / Currie RFC)*, Ruari Howarth (Gala Wanderers RFC).
SCOTTISH DISTRICTS UNDER-18 SQUAD
Forwards: Lyall Archer (Highland RFC)*, Adam Nicol (Queen Anne High School / Dunfermline RFC), Tom Scalio (St. Aloyius College), Angus Erskine (Sedburgh School), Fraser Renwick (Hawick High School / Hawick RFC), Charlie Moffatt (Uppingham School), Harry Borthwick (Gosforth High School / Berwick RFC), Calum Hunter-Hill (Stewart’s Melville College), Alex Afuakwah (High School of Glasgow / Glasgow Hawks), Grant Neilson (Daziel RFC), Zach Mercer (Merchiston Castle School / GHA RFC)*, Christopher Jollands (Dundee High School)*, Fraser Christie (Stewarts Melville College).
Backs: Struan Hutchison (Longridge Towers / Melrose RFC), Andrew Munro-Lott (Truro School), Tom Galbraith (Glenalmond School / Kelso RFC), Dom McKenzie (Bath RFC), Alec Coombes (Millfield School), Sam Trowbridge (Wellington College), James Couper (GHA)*, Stuart Jordan (Wasps RFC), Jon Price (Madras RFC / St Andrew’s University), Gavin Parker (Exeter University).
* sportscotland institute of sport supported player