Kenny Murray believes the players coming through to Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh is proof the U20 programme is working despite being winless in the Six Nations yet again. 

Scotland have just one win at this level since 2020 while they also dropped to the second tier of World Rugby, with this summer's World U20 Trophy tournament an opportunity to return to the top tier.

Murray has made six changes to this team from the defeat to England with an eye on the summer's competition, as some key players drop out.

Captain Liam McConnell misses out with an ankle injury that will keep the back-row out for up to 12 weeks. Elsewhere, Murdoch Lock and Jonny Morris drop to the bench with Amena Caqusau, Kerr Johnston and Kerr Yule all 'rested'. 

Findlay Thomson, Finlay Doyle, Ryan Burke, Hector Patterson, Tom Currie and Jack Hocking all come into the starting XV. 

Murray insists his side is not weakened by the changes and said he's looking forward to the incoming players showing what they can do. 

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He said: "The big thing is that we have competition for places, probably more this year than we have had in the last few years so that is one thing for us and we are looking ahead to junior world trophy and we want to give guys a chance to play Six Nations and international rugby before then and put their hat in the ring.

"Hector has been involved, he’s trained with us and been involved in games. Hector came off the bench a few weeks ago and was excellent. He’s a talented player. We won’t lose anything there.

"Fin Thomson is a 6ft 4in centre, he’s very physical and one of our best communicating backs and Fin Doyle scores pretty much every week for Loughborough, he’s another big strong running winger. I don’t think the guys coming in will weaken the team whatsoever.”

Results haven't been forthcoming at U20 level for a while now, much to Murray's frustrations, but he pointed out a number of players who have come through the age-grade set-up to make their mark in the professional ranks. 

Former Scotland under-20 captain Ben Afshar has signed a first full-time professional contract with Glasgow Warriors, while Gregor Hiddleston did likewise earlier in the season. 

Murray wants victories but he's also aware that developing players for the professional game is a big part of the remit. 

He added: “We want to win games. We talk about our positives because we want to and sometimes performances get lost in the result. We know our performances are still not good enough in terms of winning games and need to be better but there’s definite improvements from us as a group.

"I think big things are about not beating ourselves. We look back on the France and England games and we had opportunities to score tries and put teams under pressure but we weren’t clinical enough or sometimes our kicking game wasn’t good enough so if we can get better there and not making the errors we made we’ll give ourselves a good chance.

“Physically the work we’ve done over the last year and a bit in terms of players in pro rugby environments, you can see the difference.

"We’re starting to match physically. Against England in the last game three of their guys left the pitch on crutches so we’re as physical as other teams.

"There’s positions in our group we need to be stronger in terms of playing numbers but across the board we’re moving forward.

"Part of the U20 programme is to produce players for the pro teams and for Scotland. You look at Glasgow Warriors and Gregor Hiddleston and Ben Afshar have both signed contracts but look at the team Glasgow have put out over the last two games.

"Alex Samuel, Max Williamson and Euan Ferrie have all played U20s over the last few years so it’s great for our programme to show it’s working and bringing guys through. 

"Guys we’ve got in this group will play pro and international rugby. We’ve good players in this group, I have no doubt about that.”

Scotland team to face Italy: J Hocking, F Doyle, G Gwynn, F Thomson, F Watson, I Coates, H Patterson, R Deans, J Blyth-Lafferty, C Norrie, E McVie, R Burke, R Hart, F Douglas, T Currie

Replacements: G Parry, C Smyth, R Whitefield, L Coulston, J Morris, M Lock, M Urwin, J Ventisei