Women’s 6N: Teenager with “infectious personality” comes into the Scotland mix for the France test

Gary Heatly

Just seven days after 19-year-old Alex Stewart made her Scotland debut in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff, now an 18-year-old could earn a first cap if she comes off the bench versus France.

Edinburgh University centre/winger Nicole Flynn only took up the sport aged 15 at Stirling County, but has made great strides and represented the Scottish Futures in Italy last summer and then Edinburgh Rugby in the more recent Celtic Challenge.

She does not turn 19 until September, but with Shona Campbell with GB Sevens preparing for next weekend’s Hong Kong Sevens, head coach Bryan Easson has handed her the number 22 jersey and we could yet see her make his bow at the Hive Stadium in Edinburgh on Saturday (2.15pm, live on BBC Sport).

“You have 18-year-olds coming in and I am just getting older every day,” Easson joked on Thursday when naming his matchday squad.

“Players like this coming in is helping us to really grow.

“Nicole is unbelievable, you wouldn’t think it was an international camp she was part of just now, she floats around and she has an infectious personality.

“She is just getting on with it and it looks like just another game to her, we are putting no pressure on her and we are excited to have her involved.”

Also on the bench from the squad that won in Wales to make it seven Test wins on the spin in all competitions, second-row Fi McIntosh of Saracens comes in and could also debut while the more experienced Lisa Cockburn earns a place.

She will be covering loosehead prop with Molly Wright now covering hooker.

There are two changes to the starting XV with Lana Skeldon and Sarah Bonar out injured.

They are replaced, at hooker and in the second-row respectively, by Elis Martin and Louise McMillan.

This will be the former’s first start for her country after a number of good showings off the bench while it will be McMillan’s 50th cap having been around the group since 2016.

“Last week was her first Six Nations game and now this’ll be her first start,” Easson said about Martin of Leicester Tigers.

“She has worked really hard on her throwing, that is the bedrock for any hooker. Scott Lawson [former men’s international and now a throwing coach with the governing body] has been great with her around that and she has worked hard on her throwing at Leicester too.

“Her ability to throw to the front, the middle and the tail at the lineout is now really good with consistency while last week when she came on I thought she was really good around the pitch and she carried hard and defended well. 

“She is growing all the time.

“As for Louise, what a journey she has been on. I cannot speak highly enough of her.

“She is one of those players who you can rely on, she has so much energy and she is always bringing that energy to everything we do whether it is on or off the pitch.

“She is a great second-row, but she can also play back-row and I think she has grown a lot since she has been down at Saracens in terms of her overall game and in terms of her calling of the lineout.

“She really deserves this occasion this weekend and I am delighted for her that she is starting as she has been such a stalwart part of this group.”

Bonar has been ruled out of the rest of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations with a shoulder injury as Louise McMillan comes into the Scotland starting XV to replace her and earn her 50th cap versus France on Saturday at Hive Stadium.

Bonar, the 30-year-old with 37 caps, was forced off in the second half at Cardiff Arms Park and, unfortunately, will now miss the rest of the tournament.

“She will see a surgeon, it is her AC joint so she will be out for the full Six Nations, ” Easson confirmed.

There is better news on 30-year-old 67-times-capped Skeldon’s knee issue though with Easson stating:  “We are still hopeful it isn’t as bad as first expected. She certainly misses this game, but if we can get Lana back for a couple of games [later in the tournament] that would be a real bonus.”

Scotland: Meryl Smith; Rhona Lloyd, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Coreen Grant; Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson; Leah Bartlett, Elis Martin, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan, Rachel Malcolm (C), Alex Stewart, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Molly Wright, Lisa Cockburn, Elliann Clarke, Fiona McIntosh, Eva Donaldson, Mairi McDonald, Nicole Flynn, Chloe Rollie.

Thanks to N50 Photography for the image of Nicole Flynn at Scotland training

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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