It may not seem the ideal preparation for facing the World Cup holders, but Scotland opted to stage a dress rehearsal for their meeting with Australia at Hull on Friday by playing against their youth team. With a couple of players out injured and a squad of just 24, Scotland coach Steve McCormack took the opportunity to bolster the player pathway by inviting seven of the best young Scottish players down to Preston to join in with training.
They were in a side that played against his first choice 13 at University of Central Lancashire, a role Australia will take on Friday.
“We’d identified who the best talents were from the Under-19s and Students over this season, having looked at their games, and asked them down,” explained McCormack at the Ladbroke Four Nations launch at Anfield. “They did really well. There is some talent there coming through. We thought it important to cement those ties with the junior teams, and did it properly. We gave them tip sheets, went through the video, and had their coaches involved so everyone was learning.”
All those youngsters could gain inspiration from one of the senior squad. Batley back Dave Scott came through the pathway from Scotland Under-16s to the full team, and knows how tough it is to breakthrough in England having spent time with Hull KR and Featherstone before success at Doncaster.
“It has taken a lot of hard work for me to where I am coming from Scotland where rugby league is obviously not a big sport, having to come down south and adapt to the game down here,” explained Scott, who was mixing with the likes of Sam Burgess, Cameron Smith and Jonathan Thurston at the tournament launch at Anfield on Monday. “My message to the young lads who trained with us today is simply work hard and enjoy your rugby and if you get any chance to get info the professional game do it, take it with both hands. The work doesn’t stop then – it gets even harder.”
Having earned his first cap at 18, Stirling native Scott is typical of many in the Scotland squad in that he was introduced to the Bravehearts set up early in his career. He is the youngest debutant of the lot, but centre Ben Hellewell (19), captain Danny Brough, hooker Liam Hood and fullback Matty Russell (all 20) are among 15 of the squad to have made their debuts age 22 or younger. Brough will break the record for most capped Scot during this tournament while the likes of Hellewell, Dale Ferguson, Danny Addy and Adam Walker were brought into the squad as youngsters and are now experienced mainstays of McCormack’s team.
Scott is not only looking to make his Four Nations bow in the next three weeks but also hoping to step up to elite level soon from Championship side Batley. “It’s really exciting being here among the best players in the world and being in the best tournament in the world. It gives you a little taste of what could be to come: being at Anfield in the final in three or four weeks. Being at Anfield and seeing what is out there makes me think I need to step my game up now and move up go the next level.”
Scotland play Australia at Hull KR’s KC Lightstream Stadium on Friday night, before facing England at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena on Saturday 5 November and New Zealand at Workington’s Zebra Claims Stadium on Friday 11 November. Tickets for all three games are available fromscotlandrl.com. The Australia game will be broadcast live on TV by Premier Sports and on national radio via BBC Five Live Sports Extra.