Captain Scott Cummings believes he will be leading one of the strongest and best prepared Scotland Under-20 teams ever to compete in a junior World Cup when it gets under way next week.
Coach John Dalziel and his 28-man squad departed for Manchester yesterday and, with improving results over the past couple of years and a plethora of players with top-level experience, confidence is high that the young Scots can make an impact.
They will face the two teams they defeated in this year’s Six Nations, hosts England and Italy, as well as an opening pool match against Australia on Tuesday and have benefited from a ten-day altitude training camp in Font Romeu – the Pyrenees base which Vern Cotter’s squad used ahead of the World Cup last year.
Lock forward Cummings played nine first-team games for Glasgow in the season just past and is joined by the likes of fellow Warrior Zander Fagerson, Bath stand-off Adam Hastings and the Edinburgh duo of Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie, all of whom have tasted Pro12 or Aviva Premiership action.
“It’s been great for us this season as there are four or five of us who have had some rugby at that level,” said Cummings. “And with the new academy system the Under-20s have been able to play and train together a lot more. We have regular sessions on Wednesdays and have got to know each other better and how we play.
“The support this year has been fantastic.”
The 19-year-old former Kelvinside Academy pupil has enjoyed a whirlwind year following his participation in last year’s World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Italy.
“It’s been very exciting for me and not something I expected at the start of the season,” he explained. “I came out of last year’s Under-20 World Cup very tired and then straight into Glasgow pre-season. Obviously with a lot of the players away with the World Cup I got an opportunity on the pre-season tour.
“I got a few good games at the start of the season and that gave me confidence which hopefully I can bring into tournaments like this.”
This year’s tournament is closer to home with the matches split between the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford and the Manchester City Academy Stadium, with temperatures expected to be a bit more milder than they experienced in Italy last summer.
Tuesday’s opening match with the junior Wallabies, who beat them 31-21 in the play-offs last year, is fully occupying the squad’s thoughts, with the auld enemy crunch a week on Saturday being kept firmly at the back of minds. “For us we’re just taking it one game at a time and focusing purely on that Australia game,” insisted the skipper. “We’ll do lots of analysis and see what we can do to play well and what can give us an advantage.”
Cummings is well aware that, when that showdown with the home side does come around, they will be up against opponents eager for revenge following the historic four-try 24-6 win at Broadwood which was a first-ever victory over England at that level.
“Definitely. We know England are a very good team and it is always an extremely tough game,” said the former Glasgow Hawks player. “If we want to have any chance of winning that we’ll need to put in the best performance we can. They’ve brought a lot players back in they didn’t have in the Six Nations, teams change and it’s a home tournament for them. But one of our goals is to make Scotland a world-class team and bring belief to every game we play.”