Scotland U20 coach Carl Hogg full of praise for outstanding Jack Blain

Chatting to Scotland Under-20s coach Carl Hogg a couple of weeks back, we discussed the potential of winger Jack Blain who, the coach considered, “could play professional rugby very soon”. He didn’t know just how soon, because Blain turned out for Edinburgh in last weekend’s loss to Benetton in Italy, holding his end up pretty well over the 80 minutes.

Jack Blain, centre, of Scotland Under-20s. Picture: SNS
Jack Blain, centre, of Scotland Under-20s. Picture: SNS

“I was pretty nervous,” confessed the 19-year-old flyer. “I had been kind of running at full-back because Dougie [Fife] was coming back from his concussion. I just thought I would be travelling and then found out I was starting. Obviously I was very excited but I was pretty nervous at the same time. It was a big step up but all the guys were so helpful. Tom Brown, Damien
Hoyland calmed me down basically, kept chatting to me all the time and just kept me calm. They said, ‘if you make a mistake, you just have to get on with it’. It was a really good experience.”

After being given Monday and Tuesday to recover from the experience, and the travel, Blain was back on duty with the under-20s this week ahead of what looks like a tough fixture tonight at Meggetland against a Wales side who beat England last time out, if only narrowly.

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The 20s are winless so far this season although they did manage five tries against France, two of which fell to the leggy left wing who has been one of the standouts in this campaign, along with Conor Boyle who, coincidentally, also has two tries to his name.

“I think Jack’s been probably our outstanding player of the first three games,” said Hogg, “and it’s just great recognition for him to step up to Edinburgh games and I thought he did really well in the simple things during that game [against Benetton]. There wasn’t a huge amount of opportunities for him with ball in hand, but defensively he was really sound.

“The under-20s are a vehicle for young men to prove a point and move into the professional game, whether that’s through Edinburgh and Glasgow, and ultimately play for Scotland. For someone like Jack to get that experience last Saturday against Benetton, makes him a great flag-bearer for the whole of the group.

“Pro rugby isn’t that far in front of where we are, but you’ve got to have players who perform and deliver consistently under pressure.”

According to Blair the key to winning at this level is consistency and as he admits the Scots have played to their full potential only in patches thus far in the tournament.

“I think [in] the last three games we have been there or thereabouts in parts. If we can get it right for 70 minutes then I think we’ll be doing pretty well. I think we have improved over the weeks but the last three games, we could have won them but we didn’t, so I think we are looking for an 80-minute performance this week.

“I’ve not had too much time to review them [Wales] but they beat England so they will be a pretty good side. Apparently they’ve got a good back row as well, it will be physical but hopefully we’ll have a performance we can be proud of.”