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The Future of Scottish Rugby

An Interview With Callum Smyth

When I returned for the Rugby pre-season in Year 12, to the school I had attended for nine years, there were awed whispers of a new player in a Scotland kit. Year 12 had a big influx of good Rugby players, and chief among them was Callum Smyth, a cheerful and incredibly hard-working 110kg prop known affectionately as “Truck”. 

Becoming the newest part of an illustrious Scottish rugby tradition, after leaving school Callum has since become a pro player, joined Selkirk RFC and then Glasgow Warriors. But that’s not the reason I asked him for an interview, because as the Six Nations rages on, right alongside it is the U20 Six Nations, where each country’s next great players begin to make a name for themselves. It is Callum’s participation here where I sought to find some insight into the future of Scottish rugby.

I asked him how it felt to be entering the high-pressure U20 Six Nations environment alongside lots of his Warriors teammates. He said “It’s been brilliant coming into camp, especially with the Glasgow boys. There are some real characters in the mix that make training and downtime some of the most memorable moments. Like everything, it’s new for me coming into the Scotland U20s campaign so coming in with boys that have done it before and boys that I have a good friendship with has made the whole process more enjoyable and less daunting.”

In a recent unfortunate loss against France, Callum left the pitch with a concussion after a dominant tackle on French lock Antonin Corso. I asked him about his prospects for return in the next Scottish match against England, given the rigorous concussion protocol in modern rugby. He said, “Yes, unfortunately I received a concussion, and through new protocol and procedures I should be able to make a return.” Unfortunate news for the England opposition.

Following up on the England game, I highlighted the fact that this Scotland U20 team has scored 3 tries in two games from mauls, and that England conceded their only try against Italy from a maul. He said “Yes, our maul is probably the most potent attack in our arsenal. That’s come from hard training days where we’ve really gone into detail and not been satisfied unless lineout repetitions have been to a gold standard. Whenever Scotland plays England there is always a hard-fought game to be had and there’s a real rivalry and determination from both sides to not give in at all costs.”

Last year, Ireland became the first U20 side to win back-to-back grand slams in the tournament’s history. Currently they are on track to do it again, but with Scotland as their final team in the draw, I asked Callum whether they’d prove an upset: “I feel if we play how we strive and want to play then we can be a real issue for any team we play. I believe we need to work harder in our defence awareness and in transition. With regards to Ireland I believe we can cause an upset, in the past teams have doubted and underestimated us giving them a hard-fought and gritty game that they’ve needed to play and manage the game very well to beat us. For any team in the world to play against Ireland away is a big task but we will rise to challenge and perform to the best of our ability.” With the recent Ireland men’s team’s domination in world rugby, it would be heartening to see their up-and-comers falter in this tournament.

Finally, I asked Callum about the Scottish side’s enthusiasm for hosting the World Rugby U20 Trophy this Summer. He replied, “As a Squad we feel honoured to be hosting the U20 world trophy 2024. After an unfortunate turn of events last year in Kenya we want to show the world that we are capable of playing at the higher level and ultimately progress on and get out of the world trophy competition and get into the Junior World Cup again.”

However, he did highlight one of the unforeseen downsides of being the host nation of such a tournament: “Individually I’d have loved to have travelled to another place in the world as it’s one of the best things about playing international rugby is the chance to visit places that you possibly wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to visit.”

After talking to Callum, I think Scottish Rugby fans should be enthusiastic. Despite a couple disappointing losses so far, the way that Callum spoke about the team’s effort to improve, combined with knowing Callum’s passion and motivational influence, I think they have a good chance of causing some upsets in the final three games. Watch this space, and I’m sure we’ll see these Scotland boys flattening England at Twickenham in years to come.

Image: Callum Smyth

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