Scotland under-20s coach concern at player conditioning and Italy threat after Six Nations wooden spoon

Scotland under-20s head coach Kenny Murray admits he has a massive job on his hands going forward, stating “I don’t think [some of the players] were conditioned to play at that level” after his charges picked up the wooden spoon in the age-grade Six Nations.

The 59-5 thumping to Grand Slam winners Ireland in Cork on Sunday exposed the gulf there is between the sides and was Scotland’s fifth loss in five games.

Since a fifth-place finish at the World Championship in 2017, Scotland have won five and lost 30 games at this level as well as being relegated from the World Championship.

The world has changed for us all since March 23, 2020, because of the pandemic and for young sporting talent it has been a tricky time, but whatever way you dress it up, results do not lie.

Head Coach Kenny Murray during Scotland under 20's training. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

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As well as Ireland winning five games during February and March, more worryingly Italy won three and if Ange Capuozzo is anything to go by - now starring for the full side aged 22 - their conveyor belt of talent is in far better working order than ours.

With no World Rugby-run events happening this coming summer due to ongoing Covid concerns, Scotland will have to wait until 2023 to try and get promoted from the World Trophy.

Discussions are ongoing about some sort of under-20s event happening in a few months time, but for now Murray, Scottish Rugby performance director Jim Mallinder and others have a lot of issues to sort out.

“When we review this campaign it will be all aspects of it and we’ll identify how we have to move forward, but certainly players’ conditioning is a big thing,” Murray said after the Ireland defeat.

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Callum Norrie scores a second half try for Scotland during a Six Nations Under-20 Championship match between Scotland and France at the DAM Health Stadium, on February 25, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“Some players out there [in that game] I don’t think were conditioned to play at that level.

“Covid has not been great for us and I think some of what we’ve seen is an outcome of that, but there is a whole host of areas we’ve got to get better.

“We need to look at our talent ID and make sure that we get every player available to us who can be available to us, we need to look at our competition programme to ensure that players coming into the under-20s are playing as much as they can in a competition which is a good intensity, so that means Super6.

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“We’ve got to try and improve the intensity of rugby a lot of them are playing at or we are going to end up with the same results all the time.”

The FOSROC Super6 brought in three years ago to bridge the gap between amateur and professional and featuring part-time pro players, is about to start a Sprint Series from April 16 which will see a couple of months of action.

Super6 will then return from a full season from late August and Murray adds: “We need to make sure that under-20s guys are getting meaningful and impactful game time in the Super6.

“Part of my role is to work with the Super6 coaches and make sure that we are on top of that, making sure guys are getting games.

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“The only way they are going to get better is to play better games, there is a lot of work to do.”

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