Thumpings drain morale from U-20s

BY ANY standards, it has been a morale-draining week for Scotland's Under-20 squad in the Junior World Cup with two heavy defeats, first by Australia and then by South Africa, that has left them with a massive negative points difference.

The 58-13 defeat by the young Wallabies and the 73-0 slaughter by the Baby Boks means Scotland are sporting a minus points difference amounting to 118, by far the biggest of all the teams in the tournament. So should this set alarm bells ringing back home?

The answer is yes and no. While Scotland cannot expect to compete against countries that have made age-grade rugby professional to a massive degree and which have large numbers of quality players to choose from, there is a still a worry about conceded points and the way South Africa blew the Scots apart.

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There are certainly questions to be asked. For instance, should we be looking more carefully at player preparation, should we have much more competitive rugby at under 18 level, and should we move youth rugby into summer to encourage better skill development and encourage a faster game?

The "no" side of the case is that the revised format of this year's Junior World Cup has required Scotland to play two of the top three southern hemisphere sides back to back. "That has never happened before" said head coach Eamon John.

It is also worth pointing out that Scotland suffered similarly in 2008 against South Africa. And again in 2006 at the U19 World Cup in Dubai, Australia put more than 70 points past Scotland. But good players emerged from these experiences and that, rather than team glory, surely is the reason for participating.

Today's final pool match against Tonga hopefully will repair the damage done in the first two rounds. "It's vital we beat Tonga to get the boys back on course," said John.

Scotland U-20: T Brown (Edinburgh Accies); M Tait (Newcastle Falcons), J Kennedy (Sale Sharks), A Dunbar (Glasgow), D Fife (Currie); D Weir (Glasgow), A Black (Leeds Carnegie); A Kent (London Scottish), A Walker (Currie), N Little (Hawick), D Denton (Edinburgh Accies), G Gilchrist (Stirling County), R Harley (West of Scotland), M Maltman (Heriot's), S McInally (Watsonians) captain Subs A Fedorciow (Bath), G Hunter (Glasgow Hawks), C Stidston-Nott (London Scottish), R Weir (Loughborough Students), M Scott (Currie), J Johnstone (Currie), C MacBurnie (Moseley)