Scots Under-18s show signs of promise in Grenoble

SCOTLAND under-18 head coach Eddie Pollock was understandably disappointed with this side’s 40-0 defeat by Ireland Schools on Saturday in the final round of the FIRA-AER under-18 tournament in Grenoble but the Scots can look back on a three-match campaign that suggests progress has been made.

That was certainly the conclusion after the 18-17 victory over Wales in the opening match and the 25-12 defeat by the eventual tournament winners, England, in the semi-finals given that three weeks earlier England had put the Scots to the sword with a 57-13 win.

The final round may have been a match too far at this level for the young Scots or maybe Scotland had derived a false sense of confidence from their 25-0 defeat of Ireland Clubs under-18 just prior to the FIRA-AER tournament. Ireland Clubs, however, are generally the weaker side in Irish rugby at this age level, where the star side is
Ireland Schools.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ireland, of course, still have a thriving schools rugby sector and with their better players benefitting from coaching and conditioning from the provinces in the way that England’s under-18s do from Premiership or Championship clubs, it is hardly surprising that Ireland Schools can produce a strong side.

Pollock, after watching his charges compete well against a “professional” England team last Wednesday, quite rightly made the point that improvement is possible once Scotland players adapt to a much tougher competitive environment. “We just need to play more often at this level,” he said.

Just how that can be done in a domestic context is open to debate but there are many involved in age-grade rugby who think that a drastic overhaul of competitive rugby in Scotland is needed to achieve higher skills levels and importantly to make the game more inclusive.

At under-16 level Scotland were frustatingly close to pulling off a victory over Wales in the opening match of the Wellington tournament. The Scots, after a heroic fightback in the second half, lost 27-26.

Down 27-0 just before the break Scotland scored four unanswered tries with touchdowns by Robbie Nairn, Josh Henderson, Angus Neilson and Zach Mercer, three of these scores converted by Adam Hastings.

Meanwhile, Merchiston signed off their rugby season with a strong performance at the Rosslyn Park Sevens, the Colinton school finishing top in their group with wins over Campion, Brynteg CS, Manchester GS and Peterborough College. On the second day, Merchiston defeated Liverpool College before bowing out to eventual winners Sedbergh.