Women’s 6N: “There is much more to come” from Scotland in rounds four and five, says Elliann Clarke

Gary Heatly

Elliann Clarke believes “there is much more to come” from the Scotland squad ahead of their Guinness Women’s Six Nations match in Italy on Saturday.

With Grand Slam contenders England and France running away with the top two spots in the tournament, over the last two rounds there is going to be a real battle between Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Wales to try and claim third.

Whoever does that come April 27 will earn a WXV 1 spot for later in 2024 and will be guaranteed a place at next year’s Rugby World Cup in England, so the stakes are high.

Scotland, currently fifth, have Italy in Parma this coming weekend and then Ireland in Belfast to play and have won one and lost two so far after the recent 46-0 loss to England.

“The England game was disappointing, but on the whole we can still be proud of what we have put out in general so far in the tournament,” 23-year-old Clarke said.

“The good thing is we know there is much more to come from us and the thing now is to focus on Italy and Ireland.

“We went down to Wales and won there for the first time in 20 years [20-18] so that was great and then we went toe-to-toe with France completely and it could have gone either way [before a 15-5 loss].

“England was another big step up, they are number one in the world and we just had to focus on ourselves, but we probably didn’t have our best day and we didn’t do all the things we wanted to do.

“We have plenty to build on though and we beat Italy and Ireland last year so we can definitely look back on those and we can also analyse our opponents’ performances in this year’s tournament so far and see the things we can do to help us get good results.”

Clarke, who now plays for Bristol Bears and earned her ninth cap against England off the bench last Saturday, says the atmosphere at the 7,774 sold out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh was “fantastic”.

She said:  “It was fantastic, the crowd was amazing, we could hear them singing the whole time and it was so loud.

“We have been working towards a crowd like this for a long time so it was amazing.”

‘Levelling the Playing Field’ pathways funding grant

The British & Irish Lions women’s team founding partner Royal London has announced a £3 million ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ Pathways Funding grant with the Unions of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England detailing how they will allocate funding received.

The UK’s largest mutual pensions and investment provider is allocating these grants to support the elite women’s player and coach pathways in all four Unions. Each has developed its own tailored funding plan to match their needs.

The aim of the funding is to help develop more players and coaches ahead of the inaugural Howden Lions Women’s Tour to New Zealand in 2027 and cements Royal London’s partnership with the Lions women’s team.

It follows the news that the first-ever Lions women’s tour will take place in New Zealand in September 2027. The series will include three Tests against the Black Ferns, the current world champions, alongside pre-Test fixtures.

Scottish Rugby will recruit two Performance Pipeline coaches and will deliver additional under-18 and under-20 camps and training matches to accelerate development within the teams. Scottish Rugby will also host residential camps for a national academy which brings together the best pipeline players in Scotland.

“Thanks to this backing we will be able to offer the next generation of women’s players more time and opportunities in a high performance environment,” Scottish Rugby’s head of girls and women’s strategy, Gemma Fay, said.

Ben Calveley, CEO British & Irish Lions said:  “Supporting the growth of the women’s game is a key strategic priority for The British & Irish Lions as it is for each of our constituent Unions.

“Royal London’s ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ grant represents a significant investment into the women’s game in the four Unions and will make a positive impact on women’s rugby. Royal London are an outstanding partner to The British & Irish Lions and a consistent advocate both for the Lions Women’s Tour and for the women’s game.

“We look forward to working closely with them over the coming years as we build towards this historic tour in 2027.”

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the image of Elliann Clarke

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…

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