Scotland under-20 coach Bryan Redpath has welcomed the decision by Aviva Premiership clubs to release players early so they can travel to France with the rest of the squad today for the World Rugby U20 Championship.
Redpath’s preparations for the tournament were disrupted by the initial refusal by the English outfits to allow four academy players – scrum-half Charlie Chapman (Gloucester), No 8 Devante Onojaife, centre Fraser Strachan (both Northampton Saints) and prop Sam Grahamslaw (Leicester Tigers) – to team up with the young Scots until five days before their tournament begins on 30 May.
That was sticking strictly to regulation nine and would have meant that the Anglos would have had to fly out separately at the weekend. But Redpath revealed yesterday that an agreement had been struck to let them go two days earlier and the whole squad was able to gather at the Oriam training centre.
“It is one of those things. It is in regulation nine so we have to accept that, it has not been easy, there is a bit of a battle going on.
“But we can start preparing from now. They are all good kids who were involved in the Six Nations, so they’ve already for the gist of what’s going on.
“We can all leave together on the flight at 8am tomorrow, that’s why they’ve come up today. That’s come from us requesting Premier Rugby and World Rugby – saying that we need to travel together – it’s just more than sensible.
“The four clubs involved are all finished – Leicester, Gloucester and Northampton – so who is going to coach them? All that has happened is that the under-20s boys have been brought into that mix because some of them are part of the senior squad.
“The bigger picture is that reg. nine is in there for a reason and they are just saying that they are protecting their rights.”
Captained by Ayr centre Stafford McDowall, the young Scots travel to the south of France aspiring to perform as well as last year’s class, who achieved a best-ever fifth-place finish in Georgia.
First up is Italy in Beziers on Wednesday, followed by pool games against Argentina in Perpignan and back to Beziers for an auld enemy clash with England.
The Scots lost to Italy in this year’s junior Six Nations and Redpath is looking no further than that opening match, where victory will be crucial to setting the tone for the tournament. “Our setpiece has to be sharp, last time they scored five tries when we had the ball, we cannot cough up possession,” said the former Scotland scrum-half and captain.
“If we can keep the ball for longer we can move them around and they are a big team. We can challenge their blitz defence.
“Hopefully we will sit down in the next few days and focus on the various parts of their team and I have asked players in groups to do that.
“For the next five days I expect them to be doing a lot of watching on the laptop.
“We have to win two from three in the pool stuff and then that fourth game becomes massive for us. I haven’t really said to the group where I want them to get, but they have said they want to emulate fifth last year and that would be a massively successful campaign.
“First and foremost we must get Italy right or we will be chasing our tails. We have to respect them, if we disrespect them we could be in for a tough day.”
Redpath is developing a more open and attacking style than was employed in the Six Nations, when the Scots solitary win came against England at Myreside.
“I don’t believe we are physically big enough to wrestle against monsters all day,” said the former Gloucester, Yorkshiore Carnegie and Sale coach, “We have to fight in a lot more areas and I expect our backs to share a lot more of the load… we are undercutting ourselves by not using our backs.”