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RWC2021: What the young guns bring to the Scotland squad

Rugby World Cup 2021 Captains' photocall
Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap and her Scotland counterpart Rachel Malcolm with the Rugby World Cup trophy on 2 October, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

One exciting feature of the Scotland World Cup squad is the number of players born in a year
beginning with 2. Although a little hard to swallow for those of us who were adults (sort of) in the
year 2000, this is the generation who are likely to spend nearly their whole senior careers as
professional rugby players.

As the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand begins, what will these very young guns bring to the squad?

In the forwards, I hoped to be raving about Evie Gallagher, who has sadly been ruled out by injury.
She topped the list for Scotland for metres made in the Women’s Six Nations and her carrying (not
to mention her tackling and jackling) will be missed. However, she is also so young, I’m sure we’ll see
her at the 2025 Rugby World Cup and beyond. There are two other young forwards in this age
group, Anne Young and Elliann Clarke. They’ve not had significant amounts of game time for
Scotland yet but, in interviews, skipper Rachel Malcolm has said how much these youngsters have
challenged more experienced squad members in training, impressing so much that they have fully
earned a place on the plane. Clarke’s first scrum in international rugby certainly caught the eye and she will be hoping to make a similar impact off the bench in Scotland’s opener.

Depth in the front row has seemed to be a bit of a concern over the past year, with starters often
playing most or all the game, but the future looks bright in this department.

With the backs in sevens action through the year, we’ve had a bit more of a chance to see what they
can do in international competition. Shona Campbell has bags of tries in sevens, and brings speed
and energy, a fantastic side step and tenacious tackle, with a showstopping try-saving tackle against
England this year. Evie Wills is both hilariously entertaining in team videos off the field and on the
pitch has shown she knows her way past and through defenders, as well as a never say die attitude
in defence. Meryl Smith, who was BUCS player of the year last season as she reached the final with
Edinburgh University, always catches me out with how thumping her tackles are but most strikingly
has shown how smart a player she is in sevens, running great lines and distributing astutely. Meryl and Shona have also both made the bench for Bryan Easson’s first squad of the tournament.

And although it feels wrong picking out one player, I am so excited by the youngest of all, Emma Orr.
She has been a real standout in her short international career, who in the blink of an eye, seems to
have nailed down her place in the 23. She looks a terrific athlete, making great use of her height, and
has shown herself to be a combative hard-tackling, hard-carrying outside centre. I can’t wait to see
what else she can bring creatively in attack in the future too – playing at 10 for Biggar in the National
Plate final in May, her game management and distribution was superb, capped off with a fantastic
try-assist cross-field kick. And although she won’t get as much time and space at international level,
she seems to have all the tools to be one of Scotland’s stand-out players for years to come.

Scotland team to face Wales in the opening round of the Rugby World Cup 2021 (kick-off 5.45am UK time / 5.45pm NZ time) – live on ITV

Scotland: 15. Chloe Rollie (Exeter Chiefs), 14. Rhona Lloyd (Les Lionnes du Stade Bordelais), 13. Hannah Smith (Watsonians), 12. Lisa Thomson (Sale Sharks), 11. Megan Gaffney (Loughborough Lightning), 10. Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), 9. Caity Mattinson (University of Worcester Warriors Women); 1. Molly Wright (Sale Sharks), 2. Lana Skeldon (University of Worcester Warriors Women), 3. Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning), 4. Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), 5. Sarah Bonar (Harlequins),
6. Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning, capt), 7. Louise McMillan (Saracens), 8. Jade Konkel (Harlequins).
Replacements: 16. Jodie Rettie (Saracens), 17. Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning), 18. Elliann Clarke (University of Edinburgh), 19. Lyndsay O’Donnell (University of Worcester Warriors Women), 20. Eilidh Sinclair (Exeter Chiefs), 21. Mairi McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill), 22. Meryl Smith (University of Edinburgh), 23. Shona Campbell (University of Edinburgh).

1 Response

  1. Love the stability in the starting line up, with a bit of hunger off the bench. We’ll miss Gallacher and esp McLachlan, big fan of McMillan but she’s not a 7.

    Absolutely critical first game. Win this, and there’s no reason why we can’t make the quarters. Mon the Scotland!

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