Allan Massie: This has been a dead season for a crop of young players

The two signings Glasgow have announced this week should offer some cheer to their supporters deprived at present both of the opportunity to attend matches and, equally sadly, of success, though at the moment of writing one hopes they have managed to beat Ulster last night.

Scotland’s Jacob Henry celebrates his try during the Under-20 Six Nations match against France last year. There has been no age-grade rugby this season. Picture Bruce White/SNS

Neither of the two signings for next year would be classified as marquee ones even though the flanker Jack Dempsey has a fair number of Wallaby caps and Josh McKay, the young full-back from New Zealand, comes with an impressive record. So it looks as if both may be the sort of acquisition Glasgow need. Certainly neither falls into the category of a player looking for a couple of well-paid seasons before retirement.

Of course many would prefer to see young Scottish players coming forward, and indeed both Glasgow and Edinburgh have a fair number of these already, some of whom have made impressive or at least encouraging starts to a pro career this season.

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But the pandemic will have consequences so far perhaps only briefly realised by many of us. While professional rugby has managed to keep going at both club and international level, this has been a season in which everything else has stalled: no inter-schools rugby, no amateur rugby, no semi-pro rugby. Hope that there might be some return to action in the spring seems to be fading fast. The result is that there has been a dead season for a crop of young players, those from whom the next set of recruits to the pro game would by now have been identified. No age-group internationals this season. Of course, only a minority of those capped at age-group level will eventually play Six Nations rugby. That’s always been the case. Vacancies are comparatively few, given that an international career at the top level may last eight, ten, even a dozen years.

Robbie McCallum in action for Scotland against France during last season's Under-20 Six Nations match at Netherdale. Picture: Bruce White/SNS

Nevertheless, it was interesting to happen this week on the SRU’s Rugby Record of 2010-11. Twenty-four players represented Scotland in the 2010 Under-20 Six Nations. Of the 24, seven have gone on to play for Scotland; David Denton, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Grant Gilchrist, Stuart McInally, Rob Harley and Duncan Weir - not a bad crop.

The under-19 side played two matches, beating both Italy and France. Hamish Watson is the outstanding star to have emerged from that squad which also included Weir (again) and David Cherry, capped for the first time as a replacement at Twickenham this month.

Some 26 players took part in a Five Nations under-18 festival. Mark Bennett, Stuart Hogg and Rory Sutherland were among them. A few other have played for pro clubs and among others who took part in an under-17 festival at Wellington College Adam Ashe, Jamie Bhatti, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Rory Hughes and Scott Steele have all won full caps, while Tommy Allan also represented Scotland then before opting for Italy. That group did pretty well, beating England and Canada but losing to France.

Those eligible who were playing age-group rugby in 2010-11 are obviously now in the second half of their twenties and though there may be the occasional late developer such as Cherry, in general someone who hasn’t established himself in the pro game by the age of 25 is unlikely to do so, all the less likely because he will probably be making his career outside the game. This falling away from representative rugby is natural. Many are called, comparatively few chosen. The sad thing this season is that nobody is being called at all.

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