Even before the 2016 World Rugby u20s Championship kicked off, the Famous Five (Scott Cummings, Zander Fagerson, Adam Hastings, Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie) had already started down the road to a career as a full time pro, featuring in the Pro 12 or Premiership. These individuals have already shown it is highly likely they will successfully transition to first team players for their clubs – and also have an extremely strong chance of gathering plenty of international caps. So who among the rest of the current u20s squad is likely to follow them? Time for OTOTM to try and pick out 2 forwards and 2 backs who will make their breakthrough in one of the top leagues this season or next – and who look like they have the potential to go on and represent the full Scotland side in the future.
Position – lock / blindside flanker
Club – Newcastle Falcons
Key strength – Aggressive and abrasive.
His role model should be…Nathan Hines. Hopefully Scotland Resource Coach (no me neither…) Wagga gets his hands on Andrew and can help him add a high quality offloading threat to his game.
Having featured in the second and back rows the big decision now for Andrew is likely to be which position to focus on. At 6’7″ he has the height for second row but he’ll likely need to fill out a bit before he can attack the position at the top level. Conversely filling a Bob Harley style role in the 6 jersey may require a little more balance towards speed rather than size. Even if he doesn’t feature in the back row as he develops hopefully the workrate and skillset he has shown at the breakdown can stand him in good stead to be more than just one of the big lumps who tries to move the pile!
Position – openside flanker
Club – Glasgow Warriors
Key strength – Hits like a train.
His role model should be…Ross Rennie. Matt’s Warriors’ teammate Simone Favaro will teach him a lot about relentless pressure in defence but a balanced all-round game in the mould of the hugely talented (and hugely unlucky) Rossco looks to be more Matt’s style.
There has been no official confirmation of Matt’s status yet for season 2016/17 but his presence in the official Warriors’ websites’ list of players in the main squad suggest a step up from his Academy role of last year. The departure on loan (possibly permanently?) of Hugh Blake is another indicator that the Glasgow coaches believe that Matt can provide sufficient quality to cover for Simone Favaro and Chris Fusaro in the number 7 shirt. With Simone more than likely to have international duties to attend to the prospects of seeing Matt feature in a competitive game for the Warriors in the next few months seem strong.
Position – scrum half
Club – Edinburgh
Key strength – an astute decision-maker.
His role model should be…Gary Armstrong. Let’s be honest, every scrum half’s role model should be Scotland’s best ever 9!
He’s scheduled to spend 2016/17 with London Scottish and Edinburgh already have three full time pro scrum halves on their books – but don’t discount young Shug making his breakthrough before the end of the campaign. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has shown that Alan Solomons isn’t concerned about the age of his playmakers, just about their effectiveness. With neither Sean Kennedy nor Nathan Fowles being able to lock down the backup scrum half slot (despite having extended auditions when SHC has been away on international duty) there is a very real chance that Hugh could take over if he can grab the chance when it comes his way.
Position – wing / full back
Club – Edinburgh
Key strength – a raw athlete with bags of potential.
His role model should be…Thom Evans. That’s successfully bringing his athletics prowess to the rugby field Thom rather than boyband Thom of course!
Similar to Hugh Fraser, Ben is heading down to London Scottish and may need to show some patience during 2016/17. Edinburgh have moved out two wingers (Dougie Fife and Otulea Katoa) but have brought another two in to replace them (Rory Scholes and Alex Northam) so ostensibly Ben is not any further up the pecking order than he was last season. He is working hard on his game though and his start at 15 during the u20s Championship was further evidence of the skills he has been adding. If he can continue to progress during his time in Richmond then Edinburgh fans can expect to see him pulling on the black and red jersey sooner rather than later.
It was tough to whittle this list down to four names. It will be no surprise if more than 15 of this under 20s squad make some kind of mark on the pro game – and it is possible they could top the 10 full Scotland caps from the group who played in the 2009 tournament. For all these players it’s now back to the hard work as the toughest phase of their careers so far commences. Best of luck to all of them from here at OTOTM!
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed OTOTM’s look at the under 20s – the future stars of Scottish rugby. In case you missed it here are the other parts in the series: