FOLLOWING a highly competitive match in this season’s first 6 Nations outing against the Irish, Scotland will be looking to build on that performance against current title holders France this Saturday, writes Isobel Irvine.
Though the opposition are occupying last place in the table after last weekend’s defeat to England at Twickenham, the powerful French will be looking to bounce back and impress in front of the traditionally vocal and partisan home support at State Marcel-Deflandre in La Rochelle. Head coach Samuel Cherouk has stayed loyal to his experienced starting XV and will be aiming for improvements in the scrum and conversion rate which caused their early lead against the English to disappear.
Scotland, sitting in mid table, will be going all-out to exceed last Friday’s showing and record their first victory over the French since 2010, with head coach Shade Munro making just one enforced change to the side which ran the Irish so close.
Having taken a knock to her ankle Rachel Malcolm, who won her third international cap, wearing the no 2 jersey last weekend, is replaced by experienced hooker Lana Skeldon, pictured. The 23-year-old Borders battler, who made her debut in the blue jersey in the 2012 win over the Netherlands, is equally lauded for her prowess with the boot as well as throwing into the lineout, and will provide extra options when it comes to getting the ball over the bar.
A former Modern Apprentice with Scottish Rugby, Skeldon first picked up the ball at primary school and worked her way through the age grades, captaining Gala Girls to victory in the Schools’ Cup the year before her international debut. Veteran of three encounters against the French, Skeldon’s kicking skills were most notably to the fore last season when she nailed a tricky touchline conversion to even the scores away against Wales.
Joining Skeldon in the front row on Saturday will be the experienced prop pairing of Tracey Balmer (loosehead) and Lindsey Smith (tighthead). Nineteen-times capped locks Debs McCormack and Emma Wassell pair up again in the second row while capital Cougar Karen Dunbar and Hillhead Jordanhill’s Louise McMillan will don the 6 and 7 jerseys once more. Completing the starting back row is player of the match and double try scorer against the Irish, Jade Konkel.
Returning with pace on the wings are Edinburgh University duo Megan Gaffney and Rhona Lloyd, bossed from 15 by gas merchant Chloe Rollie, while Lisa Thomson and captain Lisa Martin renew their partnership at outside and inside centre respectively. Stand-off Helen Nelson and no 9 Sarah Law complete the line-up at half back.
The Scots last beat France in 2010, on a foggy freezing February night at Lasswade, and the only member of that side still in the team this time round is substitute front row Heather Lockhart, who could win her 86th cap this weekend. Joining her on the bench, as last Friday at Broadwood, will be Murrayfield Wanderers duo Lucy Park and Eilidh Sinclair, forwards Katie Dougan, Sarah Bonnar and Jemma Forsyth, with speedy scrum-half Jenny Maxwell and flying winger Lauren Harris completing the line-up.
Having steadily reduced the deficit since their last visit to France, the Scots will be in good fettle to go one further and cause the 6 Nations upset they nearly pulled off in the first round. With an experienced pack backed up by a backs’ selection who show no fear, the visitors will give les blues – who are still getting used to their new coach – a run for their money this time round.
France v Scotland
Saturday 11 February 2016
Kick-off: 9pm (local) (8pm GMT)
TV: Live on France 4
Live stream: Six Nations Facebook via YouTube (in Ireland,UK and Italy)
Stadium: Stade Marcel-Deflandre, La Rochelle (capacity 15,000) – grass surface
Scotland players to watch: Jade Konkel, Lisa Thomson, Lisa Martin
France players to watch: Gaelle Mignot, Shanon Izar, Elodie Poublan
15 Chloe Rollie (Murrayfield Wanderers)
14 Megan Gaffney (Edinburgh University)
13 Lisa Thomson (Edinburgh University)
12 Lisa Martin (captain) (Murrayfield Wanderers)
11 Rhona Lloyd (Edinburgh University)
10 Helen Nelson (Murrayfield Wanderers)
9 Sarah Law (Murrayfield Wanderers/Edinburgh University)
1 Tracy Balmer (Worcester)
2 Lana Skeldon (Hillhead Jordanhill)
3 Lindsey Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill)
4 Emma Wassell (Murrayfield Wanderers)
5 Deborah McCormack (Aylesford Bulls)
6 Karen Dunbar (RHC Cougars)
7 Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill)
8 Jade Konkel (Hillhead Jordanhill)
Subs: 16 Lucy Park (Murrayfield Wanderers), 17 Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill), 18 Katie Dougan (Edinburgh University), 19 Sarah Bonar (Lichfield), 20 Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead Jordanhill), 21 Jenny Maxwell (Lichfield), 22 Lauren Harris (Melrose), 23 Eilidh Sinclair (Murrayfield Wanderers).
Scotland Women 2017 Six Nations Fixtures
Saturday 11 February
France Women v Scotland Women, Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle (kick-off 9pm local/8pm GMT) (live on France 4)
Friday 24 February
Scotland Women v Wales Women, Broadwood Stadium (kick-off 6.30pm) (live on S4C/BBC Wales)
Saturday 11 March
England Women v Scotland Women, TheTwickenham Stoop (kick-off 1pm) (live on Sky Sports)
Friday 17 March
Scotland Women v Italy Women, Broadwood Stadium (kick-off 6.30pm) (live on Eurosport IT)