Women’s 6N: Eightsome reel-y can dance to their own tune and grab this opportunity

Gary Heatly

Scotland’s coaches and players have talked in the build up to the TikTok Women’s Six Nations about this being a new era and about them wanting to put a marker down – and eight players certainly have a big chance to do that against England on Saturday.

The road to Rugby World Cup 2025 begins at a sold-out Kingston Park in Newcastle and while you will not find many people betting on Scotland to beat the world’s number one team, it is a very important 80 minutes.

From the starting XV that played in the last Test match against New Zealand in Whangarei in the World Cup pool stage a few months ago, eight changes have been made to the starting XV.

The spaces have occurred in the team because Molly Wright, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar and Jade Konkel-Roberts are injured, Lisa Thomson, Rhona Lloyd and Shona Campbell are with GB Sevens and Hannah Smith has retired.

Leah Bartlett, with 21 caps already under her belt, coming in for Wright at loosehead prop and fit-again 52-times capped Chloe Rollie coming in for Campbell at full-back could perhaps have been expected, but the Loughborough Lightning duo will both want to show that they deserve those starting jerseys for the duration of the tournament. Rollie, too, will want to get back to her attacking best.

And, for six others, it really is a big day.

Lyndsay O’Donnell and Louise McMillan have been around the set up for a while and have 17 and 39 caps to their names respectively, but the Wassell-Bonar second-row pairing has been first choice for a while now.

O’Donnell has been in good form since she moved from Worcester Warriors to Bristol Bears a few weeks ago on loan while McMillan has been a star performer in the Allianz Premier 15s since moving to Saracens this term.

The latter will be calling the lineouts against England while, in the back-row of the scrum, fit-again Evie Gallagher replaces Konkel-Roberts at No.8.

Gallagher is an explosive player and has two club games for Worcester under her belt of late after a lower limb injury kept her out of the World Cup at the last minute.

Behind the scrum, Meryl Smith comes in at 12 for Thomson with the experience of captaining the Thistles’ Celtic Challenge team under her belt recently and she is an exciting talent at just 21.

Francesca McGhie, just 19, will make her debut on one wing and Coreen Grant will make her first start – and earn a second cap – on the other wing.

They are in for Smith and Lloyd with the former being called fearless by head coach Bryan Easson this week and the latter having been in blistering form for Saracens so far this season.

It is a big day for the whole Scotland squad, of course, but for these eight players, well they can really try and put down a marker and make themselves ‘undroppable’ for the big home game next up versus Wales on April 1.

The England-Scotland match is a 4.45pm kick-off and is live on BBC Two.

Scotland: Chloe Rollie; Coreen Grant, Emma Orr, Meryl Smith, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Lyndsay O’Donnell, Louise McMillan, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Jodie Rettie, Anne Young, Elliann Clarke, Eva Donaldson, Eilidh Sinclair, Mairi McDonald, Beth Blacklock, Liz Musgrove.

Keep an eye out on GH Media’s channels for comprehensive coverage of all things Scotland throughout the TikTok Women’s Six Nations…

Lyndsay O’Donnell is pictured from the Bristol Bears Women’s Twitter feed