scotland U20s 21

Loading article content

Scotland finished in their familiar 10th position after losing yesterday's play-off match at North Harbour.

The young Scots can congratulate themselves on defending top-tier status for next year's tournament in Italy, despite the baggage of a domestic age-grade system ill-tailored to meet the demands of international competition.

The vital match for the Scots was the fourth round game against next year's hosts, Italy, which Scotland won 21-18. "I'm delighted for the players to get that win because it keeps us in the top tier and that's the main thing to get out of this," said Sean Lineen, the Scotland Under-20 head coach.

Lineen, however, alluded to the lack of intensity in domestic competition and the sheer lack of numbers in Scottish rugby. "We got five games in 19 days and our guys are simply not prepared for that," he said. "You've got to be robust to get through this period and the guys gave everything. Heart-wise they got stuck in but it really does test the strength and the depth of your squad."

By contrast, England - they triumphed in dramatic fashion with a 21-20 win over South Africa in yesterday's JWC final at Eden Park to take a second successive title - have a squad of players all of whom have come through the mill of the top-level English academies that exposed them to intense competition, often in the Aviva Premiership. That same intensity in preparation is apparent in Wales, Ireland and France in the northern hemisphere, and south of the equator in South Africa and New Zealand.

Of course, because of low overall numbers in the Scottish game and the diminution of competitive sport in state schools, Scotland will always struggle in age-grade rugby, but if the 2014 JWC in New Zealand does not sound yet another warning about the need for academies then Scottish rugby must be congenitally deaf.

The positive for this Scotland squad is that 12 players will be eligible for selection next season and with an encouraging display from this season's under-18s the Scots should be more competitive in the next JWC.

That will mean little though, to the current Scotland squad who suffered their 11th defeat this season with their latest loss to Argentina yesterday.

The young Scots, however, can take credit for scoring three tries to Argentina's four, with touchdowns from No.8 Magnus Bradbury, replacement flanker Shaun MacDonald and full-back Gavin Lowe. Hutchinson converted the first two tries and Lowe his own.

Elsewhere, New Zealand claimed third place by beating Ireland 45-23, Australia won the fifth place play-off against France with a 34-27 victory, Wales were seventh after beating Samoa 20-3 and Fiji are relegated after losing 22-17 to Italy.