This piece was going to go up last week after the press launch, but… well, things went a bit “SRU”.
Handily, while we waited for that festival of faeces to simmer down a bit, the squad for the women’s team was also announced, so we can show you that as well.
There are 5 new faces in Philip “Goose” Doyle’s squad; one in the forwards (Evie Hallagher) and four backs (Isla Alejandro, Coreen Grant, Rachel Law and Rachel Shankland), whilst captain Rachel Malcolm, and Harlequins’ full-back Chloe Rollie return after missing the recent 36-12 victory over Spain in Almeria.
“I was absolutely delighted (with the win in Spain), we’ve had a great season. Scottish rugby have put on five internationals leading up to this, we had a great tour to South Africa – we slipped up against Wales and Japan – but we’ve really learned a lot from those two home internationals.
We went out to Spain, put in a decent performance, and maintained the set-piece, maintained the game-plan, so we’re delighted with how the girls performed.”
The win in Spain did come at a bit of a price, with 29-cap scrum-half Jenny Maxwell suffering a knee injury which looks like keeping her on the sidelines for a considerable length of time.
Doyle won a Six Nations Grand Slam with his country of origin, Ireland, back in 2013, and questioned on how he would feel about facing them with his new charges, he replied:
“I’m really excited. It’s certainly different. I never thought, genuinely, a year ago I’d be doing this. I’m ultra-proud to be Scottish coach (N.B he was wearing resplendent tartan trews) but there are two sides to it going into the Six Nations; there’s the personal side and the history, but then there’s the professional side.”
“I’m going to have to park the personal side of it and get down to doing a job. It’s going to be a great game. It’s always going to be close, this adds just a little bit of edge to it, but it bodes well to a good performance.
“The (Ireland) team that I coached, those girls have gone now, but I coached club rugby in Ireland only last year, so I know a couple of the girls, it’s down to on the day who puts in the performance.
“This is a fully professional role, I wasn’t fully professional when with the IRFU, so it’s a completely different kettle of fish to what I’ve been to used to. Scottish rugby have been ultra-supportive to me and they’ve virtually given me everything I’ve asked for, so I’ve absolutely no complaints.
“They’ve been fully backing this team, and Rachel, and it’s all boiling down to World Cup qualifications in September.”
Looking ahead to that tournament, Doyle added:
“We’ve already been to the other side of the world and won two tests back to back, we’re getting quite used to winning away from home. A huge amount of experience has been gained from doing that. They love travelling, we’re very comfortable with what we’re doing, where we’re going and what we have to achieve. At the moment we’re playing better away from home than at home, but hopefully that will change.”
One of those home matches will be against England, last year’s Grand Slam champions who ransacked Scotland 80-0 at Twickenham, whilst Scotland ended up with a solitary losing bonus point from a 15-17 home loss to Wales.
The England side are almost fully professional, whereas Scotland only have a handful in the likes of Jade Konkel and the aforementioned Rollie who are with Harlequins, but captain Rachel Malcolm was hopeful that the gap will start to narrow.
“I think what we need to recognise is that the way the union is now supporting us is incredible, and it’s increasing year-on-year. It’s far better than we’ve ever had before, and I think you’re starting to see that in the performances, in the changes in culture. It’s obvious around the camp, such as in the intensity we’re able to train at.
“It’s part of the process. All teams are at very different stages in their journeys, but we’re definitely improving, in terms of our support and our performances.
“On the field, some of those one-sided results are probably a result of, especially in terms of us, because of a lack of depth in terms of player pool, but we’re definitely starting to see an improvement in the national side.
“We’re recruiting more and more from grassroots, that’s going to take a couple of years to see the fruits of that labour, but it’s definitely on the up, and it’s something to aspire to.
“Every game you go into with the thistle on your chest, it doesn’t matter who you’re up against, you’re always going to give 100%. We prepare to the best of our ability, we take confidence in that, and we believe in what we can do.”
The women’s fixture list will mirror that of the men for this tournament, and we’ll have reports from the home games at least, which will be played at Scotstoun Stadium on Sun 9th Feb (v England) and Sat 7th March (v France).
Scotland Women Squad
Leah Bartlett, Christine Belisle, Sarah Bonar, Lisa Cockburn, Siobhan Cattigan, Mairi Forsyth, Evie Gallagher, Jade Konkel, Rachel Malcolm ©, Rachel McLachlan, Louise McMillan, Panashe Muzambe, Jodie Rettie, Lana Skeldon, Emma Wassell, Molly Wright
Isla Alejandro, Sarah Denholm, Megan Gaffney, Coreen Grant, Sarah Law, Rachel Law, Rhona Lloyd, Mairi McDonald, Helen Nelson, Chloe Rollie, Annabel Sergeant, Rachel Shankland, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Evie Tonkin, Alex Wallace
One to Watch – still playing her rugby here in Scotland with Watsonians, veterinary surgeon, and older sister of Glasgow Warriors’ Matt, Hannah Smith is a line-breaking outside centre with neat footwork and a serious bit of turbo in the tank.
Update 31/1/20: Here’s the team to face Ireland!
Venue: Energia Park, Donnybrook, Dublin
Sunday 2nd Feb
Live on BBC Alba
Scotland: 15. Chloe Rollie (Harlequins), 14. Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough Lightning), 13.Hannah Smith (Watsonians), 12. Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park), 11. Megan Gaffney (Watsonians), 10. Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), 9. Mairi McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill); 1. Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning), 2. Lana Skeldon (Darlington Mowden Park), 3. Mairi Forsyth (Corstorphine Cougars), 4. Emma Wassell (Corstorphine Cougars), 5. Sarah Bonar (Loughborough Lightning), 6. Rachel Malcolm – captain (Loughborough Lightning), 7. Rachel McLachlan (Darlington Mowden Park), 8. Jade Konkel (Harlequins)
Replacements: 16. Molly Wright (Watsonians), 17. Panashe Muzambe (Edinburgh University / Watsonians), 18. Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park), 19. Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County), 20. Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), 21. Sarah Law (Darlington Mowden Park), 22. Evie Tonkin (Darlington Mowden Park), 23. Alex Wallace (Harrogate RFC)