Darge, the 23-year-old Glasgow Warriors’ man, will be Scotland’s co-captain alongside Finn Russell during the Guinness Men’s Six Nations and, just a few years ago, he was his country’s U20 skipper.
McConnell, the 19-year-old Boroughmuir product who is now part of the academy set up at Edinburgh Rugby, is following in Darge’s footsteps and, like him, he leads by example out on the pitch.
“Watching what Rory has achieved by age 23 is pretty impressive and is definitely a driver for me, ” McConnell said, as he prepares to lead his country in their opening match of the U20 Six Nations next Friday night against Wales.
“His journey through the U20s and then getting a breakthrough with Glasgow Warriors and Scotland shows myself and the other young boys in the current U20s squad that there is a pathway and it is possible.
“He is only a few years older than me and it only really took a few games for Glasgow for him to show his quality and break into the Scotland squad a couple of years ago, so what he has done inspires me.
“I have learnt a lot since I came into the U20s squad in the summer of 2022.
“All of the time since then I have been trying to build up my physical attributes because the position I like to play in at six demands that.
“Also, in the environment at Edinburgh I have just tried to learn from everyone around me and there are so many experienced guys there.
“Defensively, in terms of carrying, in terms of lineout work and things like that I have tried to get better and better and a big help is watching how guys at Edinburgh like Luke Crosbie and Sam Skinner and others who play a similar position to me do things.”
As McConnell mentions, he has been around the set-up in Scotland since midway through 2022 when he was called up to the U20 Summer Series in Italy.
That involvement came just days after he had finished school at James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh while he celebrated his 18th birthday on the trip.
In 2023, he was co-captain for Scotland during the Six Nations with Duncan Munn and then carried out the same duties alongside Ben Afshar at the World Trophy in Kenya.
It was a tough year results-wise for the Scots, but McConnell is feeling optimistic ahead of the upcoming campaign.
“We have put last year behind us and since before Christmas all of our focus has been on the opening Six Nations game against Wales on February 2nd,” McConnell said.
“Sometimes you can look at opponents playing professional rugby and such like and think that it is quite daunting when you come up against them at U20s level, but if you just focus on your own job in any match and that all comes together then we can compete with these kinds of players and teams.
“Lots of boys in our squad had lots of minutes in the [part-time professional] Super Series Championship before Christmas and that has left them all in a good place heading into this tournament.
"The Future XV [the team the U20 players were with in the Super Series Championship] has definitely helped a lot of the boys who are in this U20s squad.
“It gave everyone a focus straight after the disappointment of the World Trophy [when Scotland failed to earn promotion] and gave us games to get stuck into at a good level.
“We know what we can do going into this tournament and now it is time for us to show other people that too.”
Scotland U20 head coach Kenny Murray added: “Liam was the obvious choice to be captain of the group for this Six Nations tournament because he is a quality rugby player, sets high standards and wears his heart on his sleeve.”