WXV 2 build up: Youngsters Meryl Smith and Emma Orr have “stepped up and been outstanding” as South Africa beckons

Gary Heatly

There have been many positive things that have happening in Scottish women’s rugby in the last 15 months or so and one of the most pleasing is the breakthrough of a number of young players into the squad.

Meryl Smith, 22, earned her 10th cap on Saturday in the 36-5 win over Spain at Hive Stadium while Emma Orr, 20, played for her country for the 11th time.

Smith, the University of Edinburgh product who moved to Bristol Bears in the summer, scored her second international try at the end of the first half to make it 15-5 while Orr, the Biggar/Heriot’s player, scored her first try at this level in the second half.

After 50 minutes or so Smith went off while Orr played 80 minutes and was named player of the match and their pairing at 12 and 13 looks like a promising one going forward. Given their footballing intelligence they could both also play other positions if needed.

Both played for Team Scotland at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham while they are Scottish Rugby contracted players and their emergence is really exciting.

With 52-cap Lisa Thomson, Beth Blacklock, the uncapped Holly McIntyre and others who are in the 30-strong squad that will head off to South Africa for the WXV 2 event on Thursday also able to cover midfield, centre is a position of strength for Scotland as the moment.

“Centre is a position in which we’re gifted with incredible players in Scotland,” captain Rachel Malcolm said after the Spain game.

“The two young players, Meryl Smith and Emma Orr, have been outstanding of late and played very well against Spain. The way in which they’ve stepped up in leadership roles – Meryl in attack, Emma in defence – over the last six weeks has been a real testament to their character as people and not just as players.

“I think the growth we’ve seen in them is really pleasing.

“Lisa Thomson came on in that position against Spain and she is world class, so to have options off the bench and with someone like Beth Blacklock and others also in our wider squad, well we’re extremely lucky in our centres.”

“They seem to have a maturity beyond their years,” head coach Bryan Easson said post-Spain about Smith and Orr.

“Meryl is a distributor at 12 and she can also play 10. She is a clever player and to have Lisa Thomson coming into the mix as well, it gives us a lot of depth in that position.

“Emma Orr is just class, she really is potentially world class. Her break in the first half against Spain [for Rhona’s Lloyd’s try] was good, but then the timing of the pass was excellent and created space.

“Defensively she is very comfortable and the two of them are really doing well.”

As mentioned, Scotland will depart for South Africa later this week and they have won their last three Tests versus Italy, Ireland and Spain. Next up is South Africa on October 13.

This week is also Scottish Women & Girls in Sport Week 2023 with #SheCanSheWill being used on social media.

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, Emma Wassell, Eva Donaldson, Caity Mattinson, Lisa Thomson, Liz Musgrove.

Scotland scorers versus SpainTries: Bonar, Lloyd, Smith, McGhie, Orr, Martin. Cons: Nelson 3.

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/SNS for the images