WXV 2 build up: Scotland attack barking up the right tree, now an “excitable little puppy” can help them hit new heights

Gary Heatly

Not many people who played with or against former powerhouse England men’s winger ever called him little, but when Scotland women’s head coach Bryan Easson described him as an “excitable little puppy” recently we got his gist.

Easson meant that his new attack coach had come into pre-season with the squad feeling excited and energised and it is no wonder given the attacking talents he has to work with.

The Scotland attack improved impressively during the TikTok Six Nations earlier in the year under previous attack coach Chris Laidlaw and the squad are keen to keep that going building into next month’s WXV 2 tournament in South Africa.

The ninth in the world Scots are looking to build on April Six Nations wins against Italy and Ireland and make it three on the spin against 13th placed Spain at Hive Stadium in Edinburgh on Saturday evening.

Certainly, the backline is a delight to watch these days and Banahan, 36, has made a good early impression on the players in recent weeks.

“It has been good [having Banahan in camp], he is obviously really fresh out of playing, so he has a really good modern take on the game while he played a lot of positions: he played on the wing, he played in midfield and he even played in the back-row, so he ‘gets it’ and he can put himself into people’s shoes,” vice-captain Helen Nelson said ahead of the Spain clash.

“He has been having a lot of fun running as the attack against us at times in training, so he has been showing off his skillset and he has been a really good addition to the  team on and off the pitch.

“Our attacking game is definitely building – I am so excited by the way the backline is progressing.

“We have Meryl Smith starting at 12 again and she is really coming on as a distributor and a playmaker and we saw that in the Six Nations. Her decision making is really good and she is a pleasure to play alongside.

“With Emma Orr and Lisa Thomson [who starts on the bench versus Spain] in the midfield too they just have such incredible skillsets that opens up the whole pitch for us.

“In the back three we have unbelievably exciting players.

“We have got players there who don’t need much space to create problems.

“Chloe Rollie and Rhona Lloyd are experienced while Francesca McGhie is new to international rugby, but she showed during the Six Nations that one on one she can beat people, in fact she can sometimes beat two defenders on her own.

“We realise that we need to get the ball to them as much as possible and just release the fast girls in that back three.

“I feel like we have threats across the board in the backline now – prompted by our scrum-halves [Mairi McDonald and Caity Mattinson] – and we are now realising how we can get the best out of everyone and get our dangerous players on the ball more.

“We showed that during the Six Nations and we want to build on that in this game and heading into WXV 2.

“We still feel like we have more to give and that is really cool.”

Sarah Bonar and Rhona Lloyd have been handed Scotland starts in this one.

Bonar, fit again after a collarbone injury, and GB Sevens flyer Lloyd come in at second-row and on the wing respectively for Jade Konkel and Coreen Grant who both have slight niggles.

Elis Martin, Lisa Cockburn, Emma Wassell and Lisa Thomson have joined the bench. Cockburn, a prop covering tighthead this time around, has been out with a serious knee injury for 18 months.

Scotland-Spain kicks off at 5.45pm on Saturday and will be live on the Scottish Rugby website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Scotland versus Spain: Chloe Rollie; Rhona Lloyd, Emma Orr, Meryl Smith, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Mairi McDonald; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Louise McMillan, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Elis Martin, Anne Young, Lisa Cockburn, Eva Donaldson, Emma Wassell, Caity Mattinson, Lisa Thomson, Liz Musgrove.

Match tickets are on sale now for the Spain Test, click here to secure some…

Keep an eye out on GH Media’s channels for Scotland women’s coverage up to and through to the end of WXV 2 in October…

Thanks to Scottish Rugby’s social media feeds for the photos