WXV 2: “They are very exciting players with big futures,” Tyrone Holmes says of back-rowers McLachlan and Gallagher

Gary Heatly

As a former back-rower himself, Scotland assistant coach Tyrone Holmes a good six, seven or eight when he sees one and he is excited to see how Rachel McLachlan and Evie Gallagher do in the WXV 2 tournament starting in the opener with South Africa on Friday afternoon.

Captain Rachel Malcolm will be winning her 40th cap in the number six jersey in the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch just outside Cape Town and she is a very important player for the team.

And, in the last couple of years, 24-year-old judo convert McLachlan has become a key part of things in the number seven jersey while 23-year-old Gallagher has been flying in the No.8 shirt of late since missing last year’s Rugby World Cup cruelly through injury.

McLachlan will earn cap number 38 in this big game with Gallagher playing for her country for a 20th time and Holmes said:  “It is great to have two relatively young players in there with as much experience as Rachel McLachlan and Evie G have already got. They both have quite a few games under their belt now and they are both playing really well.

“Rachel had an injury, but she is back now, looked good against Spain and she brings a lot of energy to things.

“Evie Gallagher has been really good for a wee while now and she was excellent during the Six Nations.

“They are two very exciting players with big futures and I expect them to do well over here in this tournament.

“We are privileged to have them in our squad.”

Holmes, who “looks after anything defensively, our set piece and phase play defence, our lineout defence and then anything around the tackle area and the defensive collision”, feels the squad has had a real shift in belief on the back of three wins on the spin over Italy, Ireland and Spain.

 “Towards the end of the Six Nations there was a real change in our belief,” he explained.

“Before those two wins against Italy and Ireland we had come close in a few games and were losing by a few points and, at times, my feeling was that we didn’t really have the belief to come back in games once we were down.

“That all shifted in the two games I mentioned and we built on it versus Spain recently – there is definitely a belief now that even if things aren’t going well in a game we can change things and turn it around.

“There has been a big shift in belief and maturity in the squad in that sense.”

Scotland are based in Cape Town for the next few weeks and Holmes, who earned one Scotland men’s cap after qualifying through his father, grew up there.

“It feels really good to be back home,” the 37-year-old said.

“I was born in Johannesburg, but I grew up in Cape Town from the age of two, so to be back here feels good.

“When we arrived a few days ago my parents picked me up and we went round to my brother’s for a braai and it was lovely to see them all.”

For the ninth in the world versus 12th in the world game against South Africa, Emma Wassell and Lisa Thomson have been added to the starting XV with Louise McMillan and Meryl Smith looking to make an impact from the bench.

Fit-again Jade Konkel, this week named Harlequins club captain for 2023/24, is also among the replacements.

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

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 photos of Rachel McLachlan and Evie Gallagher