The new-look Scotland Under-20 coaching team are facing the prospect of not having their English-based Academy players available to them until only days before the opening World Championship match with Italy later this month.
Former Scotland scrum-half Bryan Redpath, below, who earned 60 caps between 1993 and 2003, has taken up the head coaching role with the age-grade outfit in place of Stevie Scott and yesterday named his 28-man squad for the showpiece event in France.
Redpath, new forwards coach Steve Lawrie and backs coach Nikki Walker have minimal preparation time with the group – and it looks like they may not see four of their top talents until as late as 25 May.
Under World Rugby’s regulation nine, players are to be released five days before a match – although it seems likely that Scottish Rugby representatives will aim to intervene and get the players north of the Border sooner.
The four players affected are prop Sam Grahamslaw (Leicester Tigers), No 8 Devante Onojaife (Northampton Saints), centre Fraser Strachan (Northampton Saints) and scrum-half Charlie Chapman (Gloucester).
The Under-20s played a warm-up match with South Africa last Friday, losing 41-3 on the BT Murrayfield back pitches, but the quartet were not involved.
They are also missing this week’s team-bonding exercise at RM Condor just outside Arbroath and, as it stands, will not be available for the final warm-up game with Ireland in Edinburgh next Tuesday.
“The guys in England have no club games at the minute, but they are not being released so there seems to be people flexing their muscles and saying ‘this is our patch and this is how we do it’,” said Redpath, who coached at the highest level in England until last year.
“At present I am not 100 per cent sure when we will see them. It is stated that they have to be released five days before an international game and if that is the case then it would be the 25 May for Italy on the 30th, but we are leaving on 24th.
“As far as I am aware it is a Premier Rugby thing, not individual clubs taking this stance, but we have to gather all of the facts and then Scottish Rugby maybe have to dig a bit deeper because it is the players who are suffering.
“We also suffer as a squad because we have four guys in this situation who are not playing anywhere else, but are not with us.
“There is a game against Ireland coming up for us next week and it would have been good to have had them for that.
“I am keeping in touch with the boys and we will see what happens.
“There are certain powers that be [World Rugby] who may need to decide when everyone needs to be released for the tournament.”
As for the squad itself, Glasgow Warriors’ No 8 Matt Fagerson misses out, which is likely to mean he will be named in the full Scotland squad for the summer tour later today.
Prop Ross Dunbar (Bouroughmuir) and centres Cammy Hutchison (Currie Chieftains) and Patrick Anderson (Melrose) are named in the squad after missing out on the Six Nations through injury.
Stepping up to this level for the first time are prop Euan McLaren (Ayr), hooker Finlay Scott (Jed-Forest), second-row Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s) and back-row James Miller (Watsonians).
Prop Nathan McBeth, who came over from South Africa and played in the Six Nations, has been left out. It appears he has done a u-turn and could well feature for his home country in the same event.
Meanwhile, Redpath believes his former Melrose team-mate and coaching buddy at Gloucester, Carl Hogg, can add something to the full Scotland set-up.
The 48-year-old will be on the summer tour as an extra forwards coach with current incumbent Dan McFarland set to leave to join Ulster come January.
“Hoggy is very detailed around the set piece,” Redpath said.
“Dan has been Gregor’s right-hand man at Glasgow and Scotland so he will be disappointed to be losing him, but it gives Carl an opportunity and you won’t find a more honest, caring Scotsman around and he will give the role everything he has got.”