Sterling performance needed from incoming Stirling duo

By Gary Heatly

Two changes in the starting Scotland pack sees a couple of Stirling County players coming in for the big Italy game this weekend at Scotstoun in the Women’s Six Nations.

Tighthead prop Megan Kennedy returns having recovered from a shoulder knock while Evie Gallagher is handed a first start in the back-row in the Pool B clash which will decide who finishes second before Finals Day.

They join Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan, Rachel McLachlan and their club team mate Siobhan Cattigan in a starting group of forwards who want to build on the good things they did around set piece against England in the 52-10 loss on April 3.

However, they will be aware that Scotland have lost their last three matches against the Italians and will also have seen the way that Italy came flying out of the blocks in Parma last week and caused England issues in the first 30 minutes.

Italy eventually ran out of steam as England were victorious 67-3, but that result has no bearing on this game and Scotland know they have to start faster than they did in their own first outing of the tournament.

“We know the detail we have to hit and we have to come out of the traps well,” Head Coach Bryan Easson said.

“In training or in matches we have to be switched on from second one in the warm-up.

“We know fine well that Italy will come out of the traps and we know what they will throw at us.”

As for bringing in 24-year-old Kennedy for a 17th cap and 20-year-old Gallagher for a second outing at Test level, Easson adds:  “Megan has performed really well in the games she’s played previously, I thought Christine [Belisle] played really well against England, but she’s in her infancy when it comes to playing tighthead.

“Megan’s got a little more experience there and around the field she is good in defence and at lineout/maul time. Having that experience at three makes a big difference. She’s a very good scrummager.

“Evie doesn’t look out of place. You can tell by the way that she plays that she has played other sports before. She’s been involved in basketball and athletics, she’s played a good levels in those sports.

“She did really well when she came off the bench against England and it was really unfortunate after the red card to Molly [Wright] that she had to come back off because we needed a front-rower.

“Evie has done really well coming into this environment and trained very well this week. It’s a real positive step.”

In the Italy pack they will come up against is former Oban Ladies player Erika Skofca and she will be at loosehead prop in direct opposition to Kennedy in what should be a good ‘battle within the battle’.

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the main photo

Scotland v Italy takes place in the Women’s Six Nations on Saturday, April 17 at Scotstoun in Glasgow with a 5pm kick-off and is live on the BBC iPlayer