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Fifth-place finish ranks highly as hosts offer hope for future

The head coach of Scotland's rugby league side believes the weekend's Commonwealth Games Under-19 Championship surpassed his hopes and expectations.

Papua New Guinea swept aside Australia to win the title. Picture: Duncan Gray
Papua New Guinea swept aside Australia to win the title. Picture: Duncan Gray

The tournament was held in Cumbernauld this year and ended with the hosts beating England to claim fifth place.

Steve McCormack guided Scotland through a stunning World Cup campaign last autumn as his scratch team made it to the quarter-finals and he had initially been looking for one or two promising players to emerge from a rough and ready selection process in the Commonwealth Championship.

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The team had ultimately only three hours' training time ahead of the eight-nation competition, which included rugby league super-powers Australia and England. The Scots also had to overcome two enforced management changes as Mark Senter took over as stand-in head coach at just a few days notice.

Yet McCormack believes all of that only contributed to the success of the event from a Scottish perspective as the team recovered from losing their opening match against Wales to defeat Jamaica and draw with Australia in the pool stages, before then beating South Africa and England to finish fifth.

"This last four days has been great because we are creating a pathway," said McCormack. "We were originally hoping to find two or three players to be in our World Cup squad in 2017. However, I watched Mark on Thursday morning and his session was excellent, while Craig Parslow has come in as a manager as well.

"It was all at very late notice but they were extremely well-prepared. The tournament couldn't have worked out better with players who have jumped out of the box, while we've identified some administrative staff and backroom staff. For me, it's been perfect."

McCormack was also in no doubt that Scotland had been rewarded for the way the selection process was opened up and is excited by the outcome at the end of a tournament which was packed with surprises as an inexperienced Canada team beat England in their opening game. Papua New Guinea also went on to take the title, sweeping the Australians aside in Saturday's final.

"It was a brave move by Rugby League Scotland to offer an open trial," said McCormack, who runs the national team as part of an all-volunteer, unpaid management team. "People were saying we might get players who might not be up to it, but the amount of players we unearthed was great and there are lots more.

"I've seen maybe a couple who could get into the squad at the end of this year for the European Championship and we've seen a number who have the potential to contend for the 2017 World Cup when these lads will be 21 or 22."

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