Scotland coach Gregor Townsend explains inclusion of ex-England underage internationals

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has explained his decision to call up Ben White and Andy Christie, both of whom used to play for England’s U20s team.

Townsend included five uncapped players in Scotland’s Six Nations squad; Saracens back row Andy Christie, Glasgow Warriors flanker Rory Darge, Edinburgh scrum-half Ben Vellacott and London Irish duo Ben White and Kyle Rowe.

Christie and White were both surprise selections, having not been on many Scotland supporters’ radars, but both are young players who could have bright futures ahead of them.

Townsend was speaking about the inclusion of the former England U20s duo and explained why both youngsters have impressed him enough to earn a Scotland call-up.

Gregor Townsend on former England U20s duo.

“Andy’s been at Saracens for a few years. He broke into the first team last year when Saracens were in the Championship. We’ve seen him play odd games in bigger games,” Townsend explained.

“But really, it’s this season that he’s broken through. Playing at number eight, number six, and also playing at open side, so he can cover anywhere in the back row.

“Dynamic ball-carrier, so he’s got some skills and understands where to be, running and space, can catch a pass. But probably his biggest strength is his work-rate, which is a great asset to have.

“Ben White is a player who we’ve known has been Scottish-qualified for a number of years. He was at Leicester from a very young age and didn’t play that much for them over the last couple of seasons.

“But his move to London Irish has rekindled his career. He’s been excellent down there. He’s got an all-round game, the basics are very good and he’s a tough competitor who likes to defend, but has also got a break and an eye for a gap.”

Youngsters could play a major role for the Scots.

Christie and White aren’t the only former England U20s international included, with Cameron Redpath also having played his underage rugby with the English.

Redpath made his Scotland debut last year in his country’s win against England at Twickenham, but he hasn’t played international rugby since then, due to a serious knee injury.

The 22-year-old is back in Scotland’s squad having recovered from that knee injury, and will be hoping to make a big impression in the Six Nations alongside fellow youngsters Ewan Ashman and Rufus McLean, who made their debuts in November.

While Scotland do look to be in good shape heading into this year’s championship, the competition is fierce, as France, Ireland and England all came through the Autumn Nations series undefeated.

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