WR U20 Championship review: The forwards

It was a tough workout for Scotland’s forwards in this season’s edition of the World Rugby u20 Championship. Providing 56% of the carries and 66% of the tackles the pack were frequently called upon to put their bodies on the line to try and put the side in a winning position. Here’s OTOTM’s guide who stood out among those who saw game time during the tournament.

Appearances – most minutes:

  1. Ally Miller – 388 (4 starts, 1 sub)
  2. Scott Cummings – 374 (5 starts)
  3. Jamie Ritchie – 297 (4 starts)
  4. Zander Fagerson – 240 (3 starts)
  5. Calum Hunter-Hill – 220 (4 starts)

Five high intensity matches in the space of 19 days always looked like being a war of attrition – and so it proved with only Ally Miller, Scott Cummings and Dan Elkington of Scotland’s forwards featuring in every game. In fact by the time they came to take on the Welsh in the final fixture only two of the pack who started the opening match against Australia were still available for selection!

In all 19 players featured in the forwards through the tournament. The selectorial dilemmas presented by managing game time and injuries certainly restricted John Dalziel’s options and didn’t help the team foster the kind of continuity and levels of precision they would have liked to achieve.

Attack – top carriers:

  1. Andrew Davidson – 9.8 carries per 80 minutes
  2. Lewis Anderson – 9.7
  3. Zander Fagerson – 9.3
  4. Alex Craig – 9.2
  5. Dan Elkington – 8.5

There was an awful lot of hard yards carrying going on for the young Scots. In particular against the English they had their hands on the ball far more than the opposition pack but made little headway with repeated pick and drives or one out passes. When they were a shade more dynamic (at times in the wins over Australia and Italy) they were able to get on the front foot. One player who did this better than most was Ally Miller at number 8 – he contributed 3 of the pack’s 7 Clean Breaks and also topped the Defenders Beaten stat with 4.

Defence – top tacklers:

  1. Alex Craig – 18.4 tackles per 80 minutes
  2. Dan Elkington – 15.8
  3. Lewis Wynne – 15.0
  4. Matt Smith – 13.2
  5. Zander Fagerson – 12.7

Three of the names on this list repeat from the top carriers lineup. While it’s important to consider quality as well as quantity, at this stage when looking for players with the raw materials to succeed at pro level work rate has to be a fundamental. Zander Fagerson is already a known quantity in this regard but the numbers put up by Alex Craig and Dan Elkington suggest they will be worth a long hard look over the next few seasons.

In terms of success rate Craig (100%), Lewis Wynne (97%) and Fagerson (92%) all made over 90% of the tackles they attempted – with Murray McCallum (94%) and captain Scott Cummings (90%) the only other forwards to achieve that mark.

Discipline – minutes per penalty:

  1. Dan Elkington – a penalty every 24 minutes
  2. Zander Fagerson – 27 mins
  3. Callum Sheldon – 31 mins
  4. Jake Kerr – 55 mins
  5. Jamie Ritchie – 74 mins

Unsurprisingly the props dominate this area, primarily because of Scotland’s struggles at scrum time. Of all positions though, front rows have the most to learn so there has to be a bit of leeway at this stage in their development. Mind you, given that Zander Fagerson is rapidly becoming the de facto choice to back up WP Nel for the full Scotland team he probably needs to be progressing pretty quickly in improving this aspect of his game – for the sake of the nation’s sanity if nothing else!

Check out this article for some analysis of Scotland’s backs.

Note that only players with a minimum of 80 minutes played are included. Carries and tackles are calculated by dividing number of tackles/carries by number of minutes played and multiplied by 80. Penalties are calculated by number of minutes played divided by number of penalties.

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