Six Nations: A call to Arms (Park) as Easson backs youngsters to shine in front of record Welsh crowd

By Gary Heatly

There is a 21-year-old, two 20-year-olds and an 18-year-old in the Scotland matchday 23 for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations clash with Wales and their involvement at this level at a young age may point to an exciting future.

When head coach Bryan Easson released his squad for the Saturday afternoon round two clash on Thursday there were eight players unavailable due to Covid, other illnesses and injury.

This group included the likes of regular starters Rachel McLachlan, Hannah Smith and Chloe Rollie as well as Sarah Law who was in line for a 50th cap.

In days gone by such losses would really have tested Scotland and while the squad has still been stretched it shows the confidence that Easson has in the next generation that he has chosen players aged between 18 and 21 to be involved.

Back-row Evie Gallagher missed the loss to England in round one, but the 21-year-old will win a ninth cap in this one in place of McLachlan.

“She’s an exceptional talent, I’m extremely excited to see what the future brings for her,” Easson said.

“Her mindset towards training and playing and getting better is exceptional. She’s a quiet individual, a quiet soul who just gets on with the task at hand. She’s really physical, what we gain with her is another real destructive ball carrier.

“When you look at her and Jade [Konkel] together and Rachel [Malcolm, the skipper] in that back-row now, we’ve got a good blend of work rate, ball-carriers, tacklers and jackalers.”

Eighteen-year-old Emma Orr has been handed a debut in the centre with 20-year-old Shona Campbell earning a first start – and a fourth cap – at full-back with Smith and Rollie unavailable.

On Friday, herself just 24, centre Lisa Thomson said that the duo are “super confident kids” – and Easson is keen to see how they go.

“The two of them have really put their hands up in training of late and said ‘please select me’, they have made it very easy for us as a coaching unit,” he said.

“Emma Orr has played sevens for Scotland already and gained experience through that form of the game and she has a real talent.

“Her distribution skills are great while she is good defensively and a good kicker.

“When Shona came off the bench against England she gave a real spark.

“In attack she is dangerous, she has great footwork, she is a sevens exponent and has played at a high level there – from a XVs point of view she really gives us an option across the back three.

“We were always keen to blood young players in this tournament leading up to the World Cup later in the year, now is their chance.”

The fourth 18 to 21-year-old involved is replacement back Meryl Smith who made a debut from the bench versus England.

Easson is a big fan of hers and the quartet will have to play well alongside their 19 other older squad mates to secure a famous away victory.

Off the back of Wales handing out 12 full-time and 12 retainer contracts and then beating Ireland away in round one they have been the team everyone has been talking about of late.

That brings its own pressures though and in the crowd that is expected to exceed over 4,200 there will be a lot of expectant Wales fans – and the Scots need to use that to their advantage.

Scotland are ninth in the world to Wales’ 10th and Thomson adds:  “We know the energy that you get from a good home crowd, but we are excited to play at Cardiff Arms Park and excited to play in front of a big crowd.

“I think a number of Scots have made the trip down while we need to be more consistent and clinical than last week. If we are then we can cause Wales problems.

“They will be on a high, obviously, after their win against Ireland, but we are super excited for the challenge.”

Wales versus Scotland kicks-off at 4.45pm on Saturday at Cardiff Arms Park and is live on BBC Two

Evie Gallagher is pictured by Rugby People