Scotland Under 20 coach Peter Wright has charged his players with the responsibility of ensuring the country retain their place among the elite nations at the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa next month.
The side finishing bottom is relegated to the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy the following year, needing to win that tournament in order to return to the elite level, just as Samoa have done after losing the relegation play-off with Tonga in 2010.
Scotland have never finished higher than ninth in the four previous editions of the Championship and face a tricky pool campaign against 2011 semi finals Australia and France along with Argentina.
“We have to ensure that we preserve our position in the Junior World Championship in the future and avoid relegation to the Junior World Trophy,” admitted Wright, a former British & Irish Lions prop.
“Our realistic ambition would be to get into the battle for places between five and eight. We decided on a 16/12 split between forwards and backs because that will give us two full packs to work with and we know the physicality of the teams that we’ll be facing.
“We are giving 28 players a fantastic opportunity to test themselves against southern hemisphere teams and against Pacific islanders and that’s an experience the majority have not faced before.
“I think it also gives the majority of our players a really graphic insight of what it will take to become a top-class international rugby player. This tournament will let them mark themselves against the best players in their peer group in the world.
Fly half Harry Leonard will captain a squad featuring four players returning from 2011 in Alex Allan, Mitch Eadies, Robin Hislop and Mark Bennett, while Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has played for Scotland on the HSBC Sevens World Series this season.
All those in the squad will hope to follow in the footsteps of 2011 captain Duncan Weir and full back Stuart Hogg who made their Test debuts in the Six Nations earlier this year, taking the number of Scottish JWC graduates to seven.
Scotland Under 20 squad
Forwards: Alex Allan (Loughborough University), Jamie Bhatti (Stirling County), Will Bordill (Sale Sharks), Mitch Eadie (Bristol), Gary Graham (Gala), Alex Henderson (Boroughmuir), Robin Hislop (Edinburgh Rugby/Boroughmuir), Andrew Nagle (Jed-Forest), Andrew Redmayne (Dundee HSFP), Callum Reid (Edinburgh Accies), Gavin Robertson (Dundee HSFP), Fergus Scott (Currie), Adam Sinclair (Stirling County), Stuart Smith (Aberdeen Grammar Rugby), Jamie Swanson (Boroughmuir), George Turner (Edinburgh Rugby/Stewart’s-Melville FP).
Backs: Tommy Allan (Western Province), Mark Bennett (Clermont Auvergne), Keith Buchan (Boroughmuir), Michael Crawley (Boroughmuir), Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Rugby/Edinburgh Accies), Robbie Fergusson (Ayr), Sam Hidalgo Clyne (Scotland Sevens/Heriot’s), Harry Leonard (Captain – Edinburgh Rugby/Boroughmuir), Murray McConnell (Glasgow Warriors/Ayr), Finn Russell (Falkirk), Tom Steven (Glasgow Hawks), Matt Torrance (Ospreys).