Scotland Under-20s 'in a better place' but much work needed to be done in 2024

Murray is confident progress can be made after a horrific 2023

Scotland Under-20 head coach Kenny Murray believes his squad are “definitely in a better place” than this time last year, but has warned that their age-grade Six Nations rivals are “continually moving forward”. And he says that Scottish Rugby still has an “awful lot of work to do” in terms of improving the pathway system if the under-20s are to compete regularly against the top nations at this level.

In 2023, the under-20s lost four out of five games in the Six Nations, including an 82-7 humbling to eventual tournament winners Ireland at Scotstoun. And then, at the World Trophy in Kenya last summer, they were handed a shock 37-26 defeat by Uruguay to end their hopes of promotion back to the top table World Championship event.

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An under-20s team – under the Future XV name – was then entered into the part-time professional Super Series Championship domestic event between July and November. However, the Futures lost all 12 games, conceding 543 points in the process.

Murray named a 35-man squad for the upcoming Six Nations on Tuesday and said: “We are definitely in a better place than we were this time last year and we are closing the gap on the teams above us, but we still have an awful lot of work to do with our pipeline to be able to give us a larger numbers of players to pick from at this level.

“We are closer to the other teams, but the teams that are ahead of us are not staying static, they are continually moving forward. We have been trying to get guys ready to play the likes of France [who are the age-grade World champions and come to Edinburgh on February 9] and I watched the European Cup at the weekend and there were under-20 players [from other nations] playing all over at that level. We have a lot more [under-20s] guys in those [professional] environments now, but the challenge we have is that we only have two pro teams.”

First up is Wales away on February 2 and Edinburgh Rugby’s Boroughmuir back-row product Liam McConnell has been named as captain.

Forwards: Callum Smyth (Glasgow Warriors), Robbie Deans (Edinburgh Rugby), Alex O’Driscoll (Saracens/Loughborough University), Ollie Blyth-Lafferty (Edinburgh Rugby), Callum Norrie (Glasgow Warriors), Jerry Blyth-Lafferty (Edinburgh Rugby), Elliot Young (Exeter Chiefs/Exeter University), Ryan Burke (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaraidh Hart (Glasgow Warriors), Euan McVie (Edinburgh Rugby), Theo Currie (Harlequins/Swansea University), Fraser Wilson (Hawick RFC), Freddy Douglas (Edinburgh Rugby), Monroe Job (Southern Knights), Liam McConnell (Edinburgh Rugby) (c), Johnny Morris (Glasgow Warriors), Archie Clarke (Durham University), Tom Currie (Edinburgh Rugby)

Backs: Murdoch Lock (Bath/Bath University), Eric Davey (Stirling Wolves), Hector Patterson (Edinburgh Rugby), Isaac Coates (Edinburgh Rugby), Andrew McLean (Boroughmuir Bears), Matthew Urwin (Glasgow Warriors), Kerr Yule (Glasgow Warriors), Johnny Ventisei (Glasgow Warriors), Geordie Gwynn (Ealing Trailfinders/Brunel University), Ludo Kolade (Harlequins/Bath University), Kerr Johnston (Glasgow Warriors), Jack Hocking (Edinburgh Rugby), Fergus Watson (Glasgow Warriors), Amena Caqusau (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Douglas (Edinburgh Rugby), Logan Jarvie (Glasgow Warriors), Finlay Doyle (Loughborough University).