WXV 2: “I don’t remember a time when it has been like this,” Lana Skeldon hails Scottish front-row strength

Gary Heatly

Hooker Lana Skeldon is the most experienced player in the Scotland squad that is in South Africa for the WXV 2 event, so when she says the front-row strength is as good as she’s ever known it, you sit up and take note.

The Scots, who head into the second tier event which is part of World Rugby’s three new global competitions on the back of three wins, kick off their campaign against the hosts on Friday afternoon at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

When Scotland were last in South Africa in 2019 they won two Tests, but the latter have improved since then and this will be ninth in the world versus 12th in the world.

It is likely to be a physical affair, but 30-year-old Skeldon, a veteran of 63 caps, believes her team will be able to handle that.

They will look to show their own physical side with the front-row leading the way and whoever takes to the field, the Scots are strong in that area.

Leah Bartlett has become the first-choice loosehead in recent times, usually starting alongside Skeldon and tighthead Christine Belisle.

The other looseheads on the trip are Anne Young and the uncapped Demi Swann with Lisa Cockburn and Elliann Clarke the other tightheads. Cockburn can also cover loosehead while Elis Martin is the other hooker on tour.

“The front-row strength is as good as I’ve known it, definitely,” Skeldon said.

“One thing for me now is the amount of depth. There are eight of us here and anyone could start, anyone could be on the bench and I don’t remember a time when it has been like this and when there has been so much depth.

“There is a good blend of experience and youngsters and I think we will just continuing getting better in these positions because the blend amongst us and the different skillsets that we all bring to things is good.

“There is no doubt South Africa will be physical and in training this week we will be going out there to prepare ourselves the best we can – we will be training how we want to play.

“The squad of 30 we have got here are pushing each other for positions and I think that is how we get that physicality up to the right levels in training and then take it on into matches.

“We definitely are in a good place going into this tournament and we are feeling good having won our last three games.

“Each game we have won we have taken small things from and have tried to keep adding to our performances so that they get better and better.

“We want to keep going on the right trajectory.”

The three additions to the front-row group mentioned since the TikTok Women’s Six Nations earlier in the year are Swann (brought in for the first time), Cockburn (back after 18 months out) and Martin (now ahead of Jodie Rettie after the latter moved to Canada).

“I haven’t known her that long, but Demi has come in and she is a very dynamic front-rower and that is exciting for us,” Skeldon said about Swann.

“I play with speed and power and Demi does too, I think the way she plays will compliment those around her if she gets a chance.

“Lisa was out for a long time with her injury, but before her injury I played with her a lot and am well aware of her capabilities.

“I actually think she is coming back from her injury even stronger than she was. Whether that is mentally, physically, her game knowledge or a bit of everything, she is coming back in a better place and hopefully we will be able to see that in the coming weeks.

“And I have been training alongside Elis for quite a long time now if I am honest I have been super impressed by her eagerness to get better and her eagerness to learn. She is always picking my brain and her unique selling point is her drive to get better.

“It is exciting to have someone like her on and off the pitch around this group and she is super important to the squad. It’s great to have someone pushing me and I can push her too and it gets the best out of both of us.”

The matchday 23 to play South Africa is due to be named on Wednesday. Sarah Law replaced the injured Holly McIntyre in the wider squad last week.

Scotland squad:


Leah Bartlett (Leicester Tigers)

Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning)

Sarah Bonar (Harlequins)

Elliann Clarke (Bristol Bears)

Lisa Cockburn (University of Worcester Warriors)

Eva Donaldson (Leicester Tigers)

Evie Gallagher (University of Worcester Warriors)

Jade Konkel (Harlequins)

Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning, C)

Elis Martin (Leicester Tigers)

Fiona McIntosh (Saracens)

Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks)

Louise McMillan (Saracens)

Lana Skeldon (University of Worcester Warriors)

Demi Swann (University of Worcester Warriors)

Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning)

Anne Young (Sale Sharks)


Beth Blacklock (Saracens)

Coreen Grant (Saracens)

Sarah Law (Sale Sharks)

Caity Mattinson (University of Worcester Warriors)

Mairi McDonald (Exeter Chiefs)

Francesca McGhie (Leicester Tigers)

Rhona Lloyd (GB Sevens/Les Lionnes du Stade Bordelais)

Liz Musgrove (Ealing Trailfinders)

Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning, V-C)

Emma Orr (Heriot’s/Biggar)

Lisa Thomson (GB Sevens)

Chloe Rollie (Loughborough Lightning)

Meryl Smith (Bristol Bears)

Scotland versus South Africa will be live here on Friday at 3.30pm UK time

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

Thanks to Scottish Rugby for the photo of Lana Skeldon in South Africa