Injury-ravaged Scotland under-20s fall to Wales

John Dalziel: 'Encouraged.' Picture: SNS
John Dalziel: 'Encouraged.' Picture: SNS
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It was not the ending Scotland were seeking but, in the context of a lengthy injury list, defeat by the Six Nations grand slam winners, Wales, in the final round of the World Rugby under-20 Championship at the Manchester City Academy Stadium, was not unexpected.

“Obviously it was going to be tough going into this game with a whole load of injuries,” said the Scotland head coach, John Dalziel. “We know how good Wales can be on their day.

“There were some encouraging points in the game and I thought we played some really good rugby at times.”

Scotland, after trailing 21-7 at the break, having scored a first-half try by winger Robbie Nairn, produced their best rugby in the last quarter, resulting in tries by hooker Lewis Anderson and back row Alex Craig to boost self esteem.

Overall, the 2016 tournament – and indeed the whole season – has to be seen as a step forward for Scotland at under-20 level.

An eighth-place finish, equalling the highest position set last year, is about Scotland’s level. Anything higher would be a bonus.

“We were massively encouraged by getting two pool wins,” said Dalziel.

“We’ve been hit badly by injuries, losing ten players – and that perhaps showed against Wales. But this is a development tournament.

“We’ve been able to give our under-19 players – who’ll be back next year – a real taste of rugby at this level, and they’ll take that into next year.”

The reality for Scotland is a lack of depth in professional experience coupled with a small pool of players.

Tournament winners England – who defeated Ireland in the final – had an entire squad packed with high level skills that were cultivated within a professional environment and experience from playing in the English Premiership or Championship.

The truth is that Scotland punch well above their weight in these annual World Championships and it is not the finishing position that should be the measure of how well the Scots have done, but rather the extent of player development. What the Scotland under-20 management team can now focus on is the further development of the under-19s in the squad – among whom wing Darcy Graham, his Hawick team-mate Fraser Renwick and scrum-half Charlie Shiel will be key players next season, along with the likes of George Thornton, Callum Hunter-Hill, and late call-ups Hamish Bain and Lewis Berg.