Women’s 6N: Home comforts will give Scotland best opportunities to turn promise into positive results, but clarity and belief are key

By Gary Heatly

Scotland head into the TikTok Women’s Six Nations with a lot of excitement building in camp – but they are also acutely aware that now is the time to deliver, especially at home.

The squad lost all five matches in last year’s competition to finish bottom of the table and they begin this year’s tournament with a tough away game to world number one side England at Kingston Park in Newcastle on Saturday.

There is another tough assignment on the road in round three when they will be in the Stade de la Rabine in Vannes to take on third in the world France on April 16.

With where Scotland are in their development cycle – just a few months into having 28 contracting players and coming off the back of a first Rugby World Cup appearance for 12 years – those two matches will prove tricky, but it is the three home games they really must target.

All three – versus Wales on April 1, versus Italy on April 22 and versus Ireland on April 29 – will be at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh and they are against teams that Scotland can beat if they get things right across 80 minutes.

Scotland are 10th in the world with Wales ninth, Italy fifth and Ireland eighth. They lost out to them by five points, seven points and one point respectively 12 months ago and will now be keen to turn the tables on home turf.

Having lost the last nine Tests since they defeated Colombia in the final World Cup qualifier in Dubai last year, Scotland would love to cause a shock against England in a few days time, but realistically they will be targeting the Wales game next weekend.

They are due Wales one having led at half-time in Cardiff last year with a Covid-hit squad before losing out and then also being beaten in a tight one at the World Cup in New Zealand.

If they can perform well that day – and get a precious victory – then it will send them into the second half of the tournament post-Easter, especially the Italy and Ireland games, with a spring in their step.

With forwards coach Martin Haag and attack coach Chris Laidlaw having now joined head coach Bryan Easson and defence coach Tyrone Holmes in the coaching set up, there is a good balance there.

Seven uncapped players have also brought a freshness to things and everything is building nicely, but clarity and belief out there on the pitch will be key things when it comes to how Scotland’s Six Nations goes.

They have the players to win games, now it is about proving that under pressure.

“We are really looking forward to the tournament,” head coach Bryan Easson said recently when he named his 36-strong squad.

“Obviously we went to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years in New Zealand and there have been changes to the group – there have been players gone on to retire, there are players playing GB Sevens – so it is a great opportunity for us to start our qualification cycle for the 2025 World Cup in England and to start to put together a squad that will push as hard as we can at that event. This Six Nations is the perfect start.

“The realistic aim and goal is to try and unearth new players to make the group stronger. We have some really good youngsters coming through.

“There were some outstanding performances for the Thistles [in the Celtic Challenge event] by some young players who, we hope, will play a big part in things heading towards 2025, so it’s a start of a new cycle.

“We have home games against Wales, Italy and Ireland and we really want to get down to the DAM Health and put in a good performance in those.

“The tougher games are obviously England and France, but it’ll be a great experience to play away versus two of the best four teams in the world.

“The World Cup taught us different styles of games, but getting over the line in tight games is the big things for us.

“Against Wales we were so tight in the World Cup [losing 18-15] and we want to push on and target these types of games in this tournament.

“We feel we are good enough to target them and we want to turn one, two, three point defeats into one, two, three point victories.

“I have belief in this squad and it is now up to them to deliver.”

There will be thrills, spills, new names that capture the imagination and lots more – let the games commence…

Scotland squad:

Forwards: Leah Bartlett, Christine Belisle, Sarah Bonar, Elliann Clarke, Lisa Cockburn, Fiona Cooper, Eva Donaldson, Erinn Foley, Evie Gallagher, Jade Konkel-Roberts, Rachel Malcolm, Elis Martin, Rachel McLachlan, Louise McMillan, Panashe Muzambe, Lyndsay O’Donnell, Lana Skeldon, Emma Turner, Jodie Rettie, Emma Wassell, Anne Young.

Backs: Beth Blacklock, Rhea Clarke, Coreen Grant, Sarah Law, Caity Mattinson, Mairi McDonald, Francesca McGhie, Holly McIntyre, Liz Musgrove, Helen Nelson, Emma Orr, Chloe Rollie, Eilidh Sinclair, Meryl Smith, Evie Wills.

Scotland’s matches:

 Saturday, March 25: England v Scotland; Kingston Park, Newcastle (kick-off 4.45pm) – live on BBC Two

Saturday, April 1: Scotland v Wales; DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh (kick-off 5.30pm) – live on BBC Two

Sunday, April 16: France v Scotland; Stade de la Rabine, Vannes (kick-off 3.15pm) – live on BBC Scotland

Saturday, April 22: Scotland v Italy; DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh (kick-off 4.45pm) – live on BBC Scotland

Saturday, April 29: Scotland v Ireland; DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh (kick-off 7.30pm) – live on BBC Scotland

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

Thanks to the TikTok Women’s Six Nations for the main image of Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm with representatives from the other participating countries