WXV 2: “I can’t put into words how special this group is,” says Rachel Malcolm ahead of her squad’s biggest match

Gary Heatly

It is hard to think of a more exciting week in the recent history of Scottish women’s rugby than the one coming up for the national team.

They go into Friday’s final WXV 2 match with Japan in Cape Town knowing that they still have a chance of winning silverware while they are also looking to become the first Scotland women’s team to win six games on the spin since 2001.

It all seems very far removed from the run of 12 Test defeats which went through most of 2022 and into early 2023 and the turnaround has been brilliant to see.

In round two of WXV 2 action, on Friday Scotland beat USA 24-14 with a bonus point, then Italy defeated South Africa 36-18 with a bonus point.

On Saturday a 32-10 bonus point win for Japan came over Samoa meaning that, going into round three, four teams could still technically finish top come next Saturday evening.

The table and round three fixtures are below…

So, what has helped Scotland turn things around since a loss in mid-April to France to then record wins over Italy, Ireland, Spain, South Africa and USA?

“I think probably the biggest thing for me is the consistency we have had within the players in the squad,” captain Rachel Malcolm said

“We have had a core group of this squad that have probably been around since the 2015/16 era and we have built around that core group and the depth here now is probably as good as it has ever been.

“We have got players who are challenging in every single position and we have got a bench that can come on and make a difference in really tight games. That has pushed us all on as individuals, but it has pushed us on as a team more than anything.

“I also think that these results that we are now getting haven’t come from nowhere, the performances were there before and we just sometimes weren’t getting the rub of the green or we weren’t managing the games particularly well, but I think the learnings we have taken from that is now paying dividends.

“Our focus has not shifted, we have a massive opportunity to grow Scottish women’s rugby. This is only the beginning for us and it is exciting.”

Any squad that does well together on the pitch tends to ‘click’ off it and Malcolm believes that is a massive help.

“Without getting soppy this trip has probably been the best rugby experience of my life so far in terms of the off pitch stuff,” she explained.

“We have had an incredible time here and we have been welcomed amazingly by the South Africans.

“We love each other’s company too which makes being in camp for these long periods really special.

“The work that we put in during pre-season means that we can enjoy some time off over here as well. We have a social committee led by Louise McMillan who are just unbelievable. The way they come up with different ideas every week just to pull the whole group together is phenomenal.

“I usually don’t enjoy organised fun too much, but they are great at finding a way to get everyone involved and we are just having the best time!

“We had a surprise birthday party a few nights ago [Rhona Lloyd and Lana Skeldon had birthdays during the week] and it was just incredible. I don’t think I can put into words how special this group is.

“The time we have together is special and you never know when your last time in the jersey or your last time in camp might be, so we have talked a lot about living in the moment.

“I am really proud that the results are starting to back up that culture we have off the pitch, we have one massive game to go and we’ll stay focused, but we also know if we are happy then we’ll play better rugby and that’s a big thing for us.”

 With Scotland and current leaders Italy the two sides most likely to lift the trophy, Scotland must do all they can on Friday versus Japan in the Athlone Sports Stadium and then, if the result goes their way, wait and see what Italy do at the same venue the following day.

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

Scotland scorers versus USA: Tries: McGhie, Wassell, Lloyd, Rollie. Cons: Nelson, Smith.

Scotland-USA highlights are here

Italy-South Africa highlights are here

 Japan-Samoa match stats are here

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 Rugby People for the image of the squad singing the national anthem before the USA match and the image of the WXV 2 trophy