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The Future of Rugby: Scotland U23

By Alex Shaw
Jamie Ritchie has already cemented himself as an integral part of the Scottish back row. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

With rugby on pause all over the globe for the foreseeable future, RugbyPass brings you a new series looking at the pick of U23 talent for the top eight ranked nations in the world, and we start with Scotland.


The lack of live coverage leaves little to do but look into the future and whilst the financial health of the game is in dire question currently, the array of talent ready to make the game their own over the next decade is certainly not.

We have compiled a XV of the players available to Scotland and for the purposes of these selections, all players must be 23 years of age or under on May 1st 2020.

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  • Blair Kinghorn, Edinburgh

A fine operator, Kinghorn would be a regular in this spot for Scotland already were it not for a certain Stuart Hogg. Nevertheless, he offers excellent cover for Hogg at the position, as well as an ability to play on the wing should it be required. Rufus McLean also waits in the wings, with the current U20 a player capable of making a significant impact in the coming years.

  • Robbie Nairn, Glasgow Warriors

It hasn’t quite clicked for Nairn just yet, following stints at Harlequins and in the Scotland 7s side, but there is the core of a very effective player there. The Scottish player pool doesn’t run as deep as that of many of their rivals, so when a player as physically gifted as Nairn comes along, they need to make the most of it. The same goes for Edinburgh’s Jack Blain, too.

  • George Taylor, Edinburgh

Taylor is unlucky that outside centre is a position of particular strength for Scotland, where the likes of Rory Hutchinson, Huw Jones and Duncan Taylor all battle it out for playing time. Taylor is doing well at Edinburgh, though, and Gregor Townsend will hope that further exposure at that level sees the centre ready to step up to international rugby in the coming years.

  • Stafford McDowall, Glasgow Warriors

A physical presence that doesn’t lack for ball skills at inside centre, McDowall is one of the success stories of the Scotland U20s in recent years, where unfortunately the age-grade side have suffered the ignominy of relegation to the World Rugby U20 Trophy. A little more seasoning at Glasgow and McDowall could quickly become a candidate for a senior cap.

  • Darcy Graham, Edinburgh

Like Kinghorn, this is an easy call, with Graham having excelled at club level in recent seasons and also shown that he is capable of making the leap to international rugby. Rapid, shifty and a competent reader of the game, Graham is frequently able to make his athletic ability tell in important and decisive moments in games.

  • Adam Hastings, Glasgow Warriors

Hastings showed during the recent Guinness Six Nations that he is now ready to step up and compete with Finn Russell for the starting 10 jersey moving forward. He was consistently impressive in the wins over Italy and France, as well as performing well in the narrow losses to Ireland and England. If he continues to back himself moving forward, there’s no reason why he can’t make a case for usurping Russell in the pecking order.

  • Jamie Dobie, Glasgow Warriors

There’s also Charlie Chapman, who played well in the U20s and is now beginning to take opportunities with Gloucester, but Dobie, who is in just his first year out of school, is a very special talent. The 18-year-old boasts a rounded skill set that is rare in someone so young and his vision and instincts on the pitch are as impressive as any of his age-grade contemporaries.

  • George Thornton, Glasgow Warriors

Identified by the Scottish Exiles programme whilst studying at Moulton College, Thornton went on to sign a pro contract with Wasps, before making the move up to Glasgow last year. His opportunities have been few and far between for the Warriors so far, though both they and Townsend will be hoping that he can kick on and begin to push for more regular playing time.

  • Ewan Ashman, Sale Sharks

Even as Scotland U20s were relegated from the World Rugby U20 Championship last season, Ashman was glimmer of hope in a disappointing season. The hooker’s lineout work was exceptional, and he barrelled his way over for a tournament-leading seven tries. Do not be surprised if Glasgow or Edinburgh make a concerted effort to bring him north of the border in the coming seasons.

  • Adam Nicol, Glasgow Warriors

Nicol has done well to feature as much as he has behind the impressive Zander Fagerson and the 22-year-old is turning himself into a very able deputy for the Scotland incumbent. A year or two working with Petrus du Plessis certainly won’t be hurting his development, either.

  • Scott Cummings, Glasgow Warriors

A senior international already, Cummings’ selection here is an easy one. After shining at the U20 level, the lock stepped up well to senior duties with Glasgow and despite a wealth of options that includes the Gray brothers, Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist, Cummings has forged out opportunities and playing time in Townsend’s Scotland squad.

  • Callum Hunter-Hill, Edinburgh

There are a few interesting names here, including Andrew Davidson, Alex Craig and Cameron Henderson, but it would not be surprising to see Hunter-Hill enjoy a breakout campaign in the 2020/21 season. He was a very good captain at the U20 level and will have learnt a lot on his season-long loan at Saracens, a side that have no short pedigree developing and producing second rows.

  • Jamie Ritchie, Edinburgh

Like his club teammates Kinghorn and Graham before him, Ritchie’s inclusion here is an obvious one. Whilst recency bias will have people thinking of the punch he took from Mohamed Haouas in the 2020 Six Nations, what shouldn’t be forgotten are the abrasive and physical performances he had been putting in to warrant his place in that back row. A future Scotland captain?

  • Luke Crosbie, Edinburgh

Crosbie’s place is already under threat from another young talent in the form of Conor Boyle, but the elder player’s explosiveness and physicality could be something special. His form for Edinburgh has been excellent and recently won him a call-up to the Scotland training squad prior to the Six Nations. A debut cap could have come were it not for Hamish Watson standing in his way.

  • Matt Fagerson, Glasgow Warriors

Like his older brother Zander, Fagerson’s rise from the age-grades to senior club involvement and a full Scotland cap was a meteoric one. He has shown an ability to influence the game in multiple ways and can be an option at club and international level at any position in the back row. He will have to keep his standards high, though, as Tom Dodd, Bruce Flockhart and Devante Onojaife will all be keen to show what they have to offer moving forward.


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B.J. Spratt 3 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

You Poms and Paddies are really nice guys. New Zealand V Ireland - 37 Tests - N.Z. 31 Wins - Ireland 5 Wins - 1 draw. New Zealand V England - 45 Tests - N.Z. 35 Wins -England 8 Wins - 2 draws. Combined - You have beaten the All Blacks 13 Times in 82 attempts over 119 years. The Stats over 100 years + would say, especially England with 6 Times the player pool than New Zealand, you have “a limitation of context” regarding developing your coaches to teach your players how to WIN. So how can England with a 6 times the player numbers have a 17% winning strike rate against New Zealand? and be 8 -0 in Test Series over 100 years. The answer is simple. Your perception of the game. How do you fix it? You need to play in New Zealand for a couple of seasons in your teens, 18 -20 or send coaches over here. Martin Johnstone played 2 seasons here under the mentorship of Colin Meads. When he came here he had rugby shorts with pockets and a handkerchief in one pocket. He played for NZ Under 21 against Wallaby John Eales. He became the toughest player in the game and the best ever English Captain and Captained the Lions twice. Legend! Maybe if he hadn’t come to New Zealand, he may still had those rugby shorts with pockets. Recently Rogan O’Gara spent time at the Crusaders. What a great coach. “Our “mindset is different” and that’s how we have beaten you for 100 years + How the hell he isn’t Coaching Ireland, France, England, Wales, or Scotland I will never know? England has 131,000 Senior rugby Players. Ireland has 21,000 Senior Players. New Zealand has 27,000 Senior Players.

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