After the excitement and relief of breaking their seven-year duck of losses in the 6 Nations, Scotland national women’s squad have had a fallow week to adjust and regroup ahead of the prospect of England Women at Twickenham Stoop this Saturday (March 11, kick-off 1pm), writes Isobel Irvine.
There are two changes to the starting line-up which defeated Wales at Broadwood in round three of the women’s championship and a further two new faces on the bench. Paramount amongst the changes is the loss of the talismanic back row Jade Konkel who is sidelined due to injury.
Second-row Aberdeen-born Sarah Bonar, who made her international debut against Spain last year, will win her sixth cap – and first start – in London this weekend, in the blindside berth. Retaining her place at openside is nineteen-year-old law student Louise McMillan, who plays her club rugby with the Hillhead Jordanhill side.
Completing the back row will be the second change to the XV, with Jemma Forsyth donning the no 8 jersey in place of Konkel. The west coast native, who was at blindside in the15-14 win over Wales will win her 20th cap for the national team, having notched up ten during her first period with the squad in 2011-12 and the remainder over the last two seasons.
The lock combination of Emma Wassell and Deborah McCormack – at 4 and 5 respectively – is retained. Both women will be notching up their 22nd caps having both made their debuts against Ireland in 2014 and both having faced the English in this competition three times.
Meanwhile the front row features 95 caps’ worth of experience in the shape of Worcester’s Tracy Balmer at loosehead, with Hillhead Jordanhill team-mates Lana Skeldon and Lindsey Smith at hooker and tighthead. With Melrose-born Skeldon often stepping up to take kicks – she has three conversions and a penalty to her credit – the selection gives the Scots additional options with the boot.
Player of the match against Wales, Chloe Rollie, retains the full-back berth with Megan Gaffney and Rhona Lloyd again at right and left wing. Lloyd, who scored the second try – her third in international competition – against Wales, will be winning her 11th cap while sevens’ specialist Gaffney will be making her 24th appearance in the blue jersey.
Central to the side, once more, will be the two Lisas – Thomson at outside and Martin at inside – with the latter again captaining the side.
The half-back combination is also retained, with hero-of-the-80-minutes against Wales Sarah Law at scrum half and Helen Nelson at stand-off. For Law, whose calm and clinical late penalty kick sealed the win for the home side, the match will be a welcome diversion from her applied maths’ dissertation as she makes her 19th start in 29 caps. Fellow University of Edinburgh team-mate Nelson (who’s studying geophysics) will be making her eighth appearance in the national jersey and should be ready whatever the weather at the Stoop – her previous sporting credits include being part of the Scottish Alpine Ski Team!
With Sarah Bonar elevated from the bench, her place is taken by Rachael Cook, the Falkirk-born BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy back row who secured her previous ten international caps during the tournament in 2014 and 2015.
The only other change on the bench is in the backs, with Livingston lass – via Oban and Northumberland University – Abi Evans joining the fray in place of Lauren Harris. The remaining replacements are headed up in the experience stakes by front row Heather Lockhart (87 caps), ranging to thrice-capped flanker Lucy Park.
Saturday’s match will provide a stiff test for the Scots against current table-toppers England, in the own back yard. The home side may have seen off the Welsh 63-0, away, in round two but were put to the test last time out at the Stoop by the Italians.
Scotland Women starting XV
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 Sarah Bonar (Lichfield)
7 Louise McMillan* (Hillhead Jordanhill)
8 Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead Jordanhill)
16 Lucy Park* (Murrayfield Wanderers)
17 Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill)
18 Katie Dougan (Edinburgh University)
19 Rachael Cook* (Murrayfield Wanderers)
20 Lyndsay O’Donnell (Worcester)
21 Jenny Maxwell (Lichfield)
22 Eilidh Sinclair* (Murrayfield Wanderers)
23 Abi Evans (Hillhead Jordanhill)
* BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 2 player 2016/17
Date: Saturday 11 March
Venue: Twickenham Stoop, capacity 14,816
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ire) Ass Ref 1: Sara Cox (Eng)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Ita)
Broadcast: delayed on Sky Sports (streamed via Facebook www.facebook.com/womenssixnations
or YouTube www.youtube.com/RBS6Nation in Ireland and France only)
Scotland Women 2017 Six Nations Fixtures
Friday 3 February Scotland Women 15-22 Ireland Women, Broadwood Stadium
Saturday 11 February France Women 55-0 Scotland Women, Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle
Friday 24 February Scotland Women 15-14 Wales Women, Broadwood Stadium
Saturday 11 March England Women v Scotland Women, Twickenham Stoop (kick-off 1pm)
Friday 17 March Scotland Women v Italy Women, Broadwood Stadium (kick-off 6.30pm)