Women’s 6N: Seven wins gave momentum, now Scots’ focus on three games as they look to hit new heights

Gary Heatly

Scotland’s players will be having a well-deserved rest over the next few days after two physical Test matches to kick-off their Guinness Women’s Six Nations campaign for 2024.

A first win in Wales since 2004 and then pushing France 15-5 represents a solid start to the tournament and kept up momentum that was built up from April last year.

The 20-18 triumph in Cardiff gave Scotland a record breaking seventh Test win on the spin and that run will always be remembered, but the sequence was halted by France in round two – and when Scotland get back into camp on Sunday they will refocus quickly ahead of three massive matches that are to come back-to-back.

First up is world number one side England at Hive Stadium which will be a tough assignment, but if they can build on the defensive showing against France and tighten up in a few other areas then there is no reason they cannot give what is set to be a record home tournament crowd something to cheer about.

That is on April 13 at 2.15pm before two away trips to Italy and Ireland.

Scotland’s seven game winning run was kick started by victories over these two sides last April to end the 2023 Six Nations, but on the road it will be tougher.

April 20 sees Scotland taking on Italy in the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi at 4.45pm UK time and then, on April 27 at 2.30pm they face Ireland at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

With England and France likely to be the top two when the competition comes to an end, gaining third spot has to be the aim for Scotland.

Not only would that be a best finish in the Six Nations since 2005, but it would qualify Scotland for next year’s Rugby World Cup in England and, before that, would see them playing in WXV 1 later in the year.

After winning WXV 2 last year that would be the natural progression for this team and while it would mean a run of tough games against potentially the likes of England, New Zealand and Canada, it is the level of competition to keep things progressing.

After the France match, captain Rachel Malcolm said:  “Now we’ve earned the respect. We’re sitting at the same table as these top teams now.”

The next three games will show whether Scotland are now regulars at that table or were just visiting, but the signs are positive.

“Gutted” Scots on the right track

The fact that Scotland are “gutted” not to have beaten a top three side in the world shows how far they have come in the last 12 months, says scrum-half Caity Mattinson after Saturday’s tight reverse against France.

In front of a record competition home crowd of 5,601 at the Hive in Edinburgh, France won the match 15-5 after Scotland had led 5-3 at half-time thanks to a try by hooker Elis Martin and had an upset in their sights.

In defeat this was a stellar effort and it shows how far they have come since a 55-0 defeat to France last year that they were frustrated not to have recorded a positive result.

“We are really disappointed, we believed all week in the build-up and right until the end of the game that we could win it,” Mattinson said.

“The wind had a massive impact on the game, we weren’t able to control field position because of that.

“We’ll probably kick ourselves for opportunities missed in the first-half.

“But the fact that we’ve come away from a game against a top three team in the world and we’re all gutted that it’s 15-5 shows how far we’ve come in such a short space of time.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to right some wrongs in two weeks’ time against England and go again and keep building in the right direction.

“Defensively it was big performance against France. Assistant coach Tyrone Holmes particularly has worked really hard to make sure that we’re able to defend like that for 80 minutes and we will need to do the same next time out.”

Head coach Bryan Easson has confirmed that replacement Molly Wright was knocked out, but was “up about and walking” in the changing rooms after the game and has now started her HIA return to play protocols.

And he said that Francesca McGhie, the winger who has missed the first two matches through injury and illness, will be back in contention for the England game on April 13.

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the main image from the France game

During the Guinness Women’s Six Nations period through to the end of April, GH Media will be covering all aspects of women’s rugby in Scotland via reports, features and interviews…

Thanks to those who have made this possible and if any companies/individuals are keen to support this work too, please email gary@gh-media.co.uk