Following on from our look at the top Welsh players to watch at the upcoming World Rugby U20 Championship, we now turn our attention to Scotland.
New Scotland U20 coach Bryan Redpath has unfortunately lost several the side’s standout players from 2017, but there is still plenty of talent to work with as the Scots go head-to-head with Argentina, England and Italy in Pool B.
Stafford McDowall, Glasgow Warriors
This powerful centre is one of the players representing Scotland for a second season in the competition and has already made his senior debut for Glasgow Warriors.
With a smaller playing pool than many of the other nations competing in the tournament, a significant amount of Scotland’s players come from other countries or Aviva Premiership academies, but McDowall has been in the Scotland academy system since day one, having previously attended Merchiston Castle school in Edinburgh and turned out for Ayr in the BT Premiership.
With the Scotland pack lacking experience and size, there will be an onus on McDowall, who captains the side, getting the team on the front-foot with short, sharp carries through the midfield.
Devante Onojaife, Northampton Saints
If the Scotland pack lacks punch, it won’t be down to any lack of effort from Onojaife, who offers a dynamic carrying threat from number eight.
Along with McDowall, he will be another to try and keep Scotland moving forward onto the ball, but if they are struggling to generate quick ball and push the tempo, he is an option as a one-out carrier to try and spark some go forward.
His older brother Jordan packed down with Maro Itoje and Charlie Ewels in the England second row when they won the then Junior World Championship and though the odds of Scotland achieving that same feat this season are long, he will hope to have a similarly positive impact at the tournament.
Cammy Hutchison, Currie
If McDowall is the hammer in the Scottish midfield, then Hutchison is the knife, who will look for the space between defenders and run the sort of incisive lines that Scotland will thrive off if they can keep the tempo high.
Hutchison missed the U20 Six Nations earlier this year with injury but should re-join McDowall in the midfield, having struck up a fruitful partnership last season, although competition will be stiff and provided by rugby league convert Callum McLelland and Northampton’s Fraser Strachan.
The depth and quality of Scotland’s centre options are the strength of the side this season and Hutchison, as an elusive runner and playmaker, arguably provides Scotland with their best chance of upsetting the odds and contending in Pool B.
James Miller, Watsonians
Miller has taken the well-trod path from South Africa to Scotland and will bring physicality, punch and an abrasive presence to Scotland’s options in the back-row.
The former Kearsney College player has represented Scotland at U19 level and is set to step up to the U20s over the next few weeks, offering a different skill set to the duo of Guy Graham and Rory Darge, both of whom packed down on the openside during the U20 Six Nations.
A former Craven Week competitor for the Sharks, Miller could form part of an explosive back-row with Onojaife and Graham or Darge, all of whom would thrive on a high tempo game plan and could help negate potential issues for Scotland at the set-piece.
Charlie Chapman, Gloucester
A product of the Scottish Exiles program, Gloucester’s Chapman qualifies through his Scottish father and was one of the standout players in last season’s U18 Premiership season.
A quick, darting scrum-half, Chapman is another player who can help keep the tempo high for Redpath’s side and try to impose a speed on the game that opposition sides are uncomfortable playing against. His passing shouldn’t be underestimated, but it’s in the gaps and defensive holes where Chapman comes into his own, able to utilise his explosive turn of pace and confidence as a ball-carrier.
Gloucester scrum-halves have a history of lighting up this competition, with Harry Randall and Ben Vellacott two recent examples of electric Cherry and White nines who had joy at the championship.
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