Rugby: U18 Scotland teams eye place in National Cup semi-finals

THE National Youth Under-18 Cup resumes tomorrow night after a period of winter-weather postponements, with three outstanding quarter-final ties scheduled to be played, only 12 days before the final at Murrayfield on 26 April.

The three matches will go ahead at Neilson Park where Haddington host Dumfries, at Meggetland where Boroughmuir face GHA, and at Stoneyhill where Musselburgh play Currie Colts in what is expected to be the closest of the contests.

Dumfries make the journey to East Lothian knowing that they face a physical test against Haddington. "Haddington lost to the top sides in the Edinburgh and Lothian Under-18 league by only a small margin. They're an older side and have a strong pack," said John Steele, the Dumfries president.

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The south-west club have been forced to arrange fixtures outwith the Glasgow league after the competition came to an unsatisfactory end for Dumfries.

Steele added: "We were in a league of six clubs and that should have given us ten games over the season. But Ayr and Dalziel refused to travel to Dumfries, so that left us with only eight games in the season.

"We've been forced to seek games in Cumbria and, fortunately, Stirling and Biggar have helped us by giving us games as preparation for the quarter-finals."

The prize for the winners of this match will be a home semi-final tie against the winners of the Boroughmuir v GHA quarter-final.

Boroughmuir go into the game as clear favourites, with home advantage and the confidence of winning the Edinburgh and Lothians Under-18 league.

They will field two Scotland Under-18 caps in flanker Adam de St Croix, a pupil at Firhill High School, and lock William Kay. Also likely to be key players are skipper Ross Peacock, who is a skilful full-back, and flanker Matt Walker. GHA, too, will field international players in wing Rory Hughes, and lock Adam Bennett, both of whom played for Scotland Under-17s.

At Stoneyhill, Currie Colts, hoping to atone for losing out to Stirling in last season's final, will start as favourites against Musselburgh. Currie knocked out Stirling earlier in the cup and look to have the personnel to go one better than last year's team. For the winner there is a long trip to play Aberdeen Grammar, who booked their place in the last four with a quarter-final win over Highland.

Meanwhile, Scotland age grade manager Henry Edwards has expressed his delight at the Scotland Under-19 victory over France on Sunday.

"This is really good for Scottish rugby," he said. "All the guys have been on strength conditioning courses and it shows. But we need to keep improving all the time."