First of all, I would like to start by saying how much all of us involved with the Scotland Under-20 team are looking forward to playing at Netherdale, our rugby home for the last couple of years, throughout the 2015 6 Nations campaign.
We know how passionate and knowledgeable the people of the Borders are about the game, and I am sure the atmosphere generated tomorrow night will act as a 16th man for our young players representing Scotland on home soil.
It’s the start of a challenging journey for these young men, culminating in the World Rugby Under-20s Championships, held in Italy in June.
I’m especially excited for the players from the local area – the likes of Ross Graham of Hawick, and, of course, Gala boys Gary Robertson and Ruairi Howarth, who will get the chance to play so close to home.
This year we have a committed, proud and brave squad who really want to play for the jersey, with more than half the group a year young.
There’s some real quality across the team, with raw and exciting talent involved, that in years to come, we strongly believe will be gaining senior representative honours.
Last week we were beaten by a very physical, sharp and intelligent French team in front of a 10,000 -strong crowd at the Jean Laville Stadium, in the country’s Burgundy region. The atmosphere was electric, and we hope the boys receive a similar reception at home. They certainly learned from the international experience, and what this level of rugby is all about, and are keen to get back out on the field and show the learnings they have taken on board.
This Friday we play Wales, and are well aware of the challenge they bring.
Having just come off the back of a win against current Junior World Champions England in their first match of the 6 Nations campaign, they will be on a high.
However, with the potential we have in our ranks, we know that we have the ability to compete fiercely with them, especially at home.
I would also like to say good luck to the junior sections of Melrose and Hawick, who will compete in a mini Bill McLaren Shield competition at half-time. You never know, they could be back at Netherdale in years to come representing Scotland, just like their club-mates.
Lastly, I speak on behalf of the squad in saying that we hope we will do all the fans who come to watch us proud.
We look forward to seeing you there and, more importantly, hearing you from the sidelines.
Scotland under-20 v Wales under-20, Netherdale, Friday, February 13 (kick-off 5.55pm) – adult tickets £10, seniors (aged 60+) £5, concessions free. All Scotland season-pass holders gain entry to representative fixtures free of charge. The game will also be shown live on BBC ALBA.