Prop Balmer retires as Scots finish on a high

Long-serving prop Tracy Balmer has retired from international rugby, after Scotland Women’s recorded their best Six Nations finish in seven years with a final victory over Italy.

The 34-year-old tighthead prop earned her 43rd test cap in the 14-12 victory against Italy at Broadwood Stadium in front of an elated home crowd. It was the first-time Scotland had beaten Italy since 2009 and they first time they had scored two wins in the championship since 2006.

Balmer said: “It’s the best feeling to go out on. Words can’t describe it. To come away with two really good wins is fantastic.

This team is starting to grow in confidence and we are working our way back even if teams score against us we are not folding, we have the mindset that, ‘no we should win this game’.

“It’s really pleasing to see the young players starting to believe in themselves.”

Scotland secured their first win in the Six Nations since 2010 in the third round against Wales (15-14), following a narrow defeat to Ireland in their Championship opener.

Balmer said: “This season is a big stand out for me because I’ve seen such a shift in the attitude of the players.

“I’ve also seen a change in the way Scottish Rugby has pushed us forward and there has been a shift from being amateur to professional in a sense.

“This season has been so much more fun for me as everyone is on the same page and, of course, we’ve won two games.”

Head Coach Shade Munro paid tribute to Balmer made her debut against Spain in 2011 and has played in every Six Nations game since.

Munro said: “She’s been a brilliant servant to the women’s game. She’s been through thick and thin with this team. She’s worked extremely hard and been one of the senior players who has stepped up since I came on board. It’s great she’s finishing on a high with two wins.”

Balmer now intends to focus on coaching. She added: “I’ve always had to do my coaching alongside my playing, which has come first so I now need to build up my experience. It’s the right time for me to retire and leave the shirt in a better place.

“I don’t think I’ll miss the early morning gym sessions but I will miss the team. I’ve got some great friends in the squad and I know I’ll miss them, especially when they’re all back in camp.”

Shade Munro hailed his side’s comeback from a crushing defeat against England.and said: “They came from behind in both matches to get the wins against Wales and Italy.

“This group has made real progress. We’ve had more games this season and they’ve learned from every game, regardless of the result they’ve learned from the experience.

“The understanding of the way we are trying to play is also getting better.

“The BT Sport Academy and pathway has certainly got players fitter. We are in a better place at the end of this season compared to last year.

“They are a very young side with so much potential. Hopefully we can keep improving and the wins will keep on coming.”

Pictured: Lisa Martin and Megan Gaffney and Tracy Balmer

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 64 – 0 Scotland Women, Twickenham Stoop

Friday 17 March Scotland Women 14 – 12 Italy Women, Broadwood Stadium