AS a miserable Six Nations for Scotland Under-20s reached a suitably grim end with a painful 59-5 loss to Ireland on Sunday evening, head coach Kenny Murray explained that he was disappointed but not really surprised by how his team’s campaign had panned out. 

The young Scots have now suffered back-to-back championship whitewashes. At least they managed to pick up a solitary bonus-point this season for scoring four tries against England in round one, which is progress of sorts – if you are an incurable optimist. 

Murray says he understands why the plight of the age-grade side is causing considerable angst to those who care about the Scottish game, but insists that he is confident that measures are being taken to facilitate meaningful and immediate improvements at this level. 

“To be honest with you, I expected it to be tough,” conceded the former Glasgow Warriors head coach, who now looks after the team as part of his new job as ‘Head of Player Transition’ for Scottish Rugby. ‘Looking back at the results in the summer [in the delayed 2021 Six Nations], losing 43-3 to Italy highlights where we are. 

“What’s happened with Covid has not been great for us during the last year and a half, and I think some of what we’ve seen is an outcome of that. But there is a whole host of areas we’ve got to get better.  

“We need to look at our talent ID and making sure that we get every player available to us who can be available to us, we need to look at our competition programme and ensuring that players coming into the Under-20s are playing as much as they can in a competition which is a good intensity so that means Super6. 

“Players’ conditioning is a big thing,” he added. “Some players out there, I don’t think were conditioned to play at that level.” 

Scotland have also been relegated to the second-tier World Rugby Under-20 Trophy, where they compete against sides like Spain, Uruguay and Hong Kong instead of the powerhouse nations. Covid concerns mean that tournament will not be played this year so no chance of promotion back to the big time in the foreseeable future. 

That does, at least, mean that the current crop of players are going to get another crack at the top European sides this summer. 

“We’re looking at an event which is going to be organised involving the Six Nations and maybe another team,” explained Murray. “I think it was going to be in Georgia but they are now looking at moving that to one of the Six Nations countries. So, there is definitely going to be something.”