‘We have taken massive steps’: Scotland’s women striding cautiously into a promising future post-Six Nations

Scotland finished the TikTok Women's Six Nations on a high note
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On April 16th, things were not looking too rosy for Scotland after they fell to their third TikTok Women’s Six Nations loss in France and a 12th Test defeat in total on the spin.

They then had just six days, including a travel day back from Vannes, to get ready for a crucial home match with Italy in Edinburgh.

However, they dusted themselves down and the following two weeks could not have gone better for Bryan Easson’s charges.

They saw off Italy 29-24 with a bonus point at the DAM Health Stadium on April 22 and last Saturday, they backed that up with another bonus point victory over Ireland at the same venue.

That 36-10 triumph sealed them fourth spot in the table and a place in WXV 2 later in the year. It was also the first time Scotland had won two games in the competition since 2017 and it was played in front of a record home Six Nations crowd of 4,862.

The tournament this year has helped bring in new supporters north of the border, captain Rachel Malcolm and vice-captain Helen Nelson have led brilliantly and in young talents like Francesca McGhie (19), Emma Orr (20), Meryl Smith (21) and Evie Gallagher (22) there are some promising players - and good role models - going forward.

Scotland know there is still lots to work on, but there is a feeling of positivity in the air.

"We have taken massive steps, but we can still improve,” Rachel Malcolm told TRU after the victory over Ireland. "In each of the games in the Six Nations, we have either had a pack that has worked or a backline that has worked. That is the first performance when we have put the two together. Looking to the future, that is fantastic.

"We are here to compete. People have questioned whether we deserved to be in this tournament. We have shown in the last two weeks that we deserve to be here and not only that, we are here to compete. This is a springboard to a bright future."

Easson wants charges to keep being ‘relentless’

Often in the past, Scotland teams have waited for things to happen on the pitch rather than engineering positive moments themselves, but they did the latter against Italy and Ireland.

In the first game, they bounced into a 24-7 lead before being hauled back to then score a winning try while, against Ireland, they really took the game by the scruff of the neck when it was poised at 10-10 after 54 minutes.

Scotland went on to score four more tries and head coach Bryan Easson said: "The second half versus Ireland was brilliant, the team were relentless.

"We weren’t overly happy in the first half as we gave up some easy ball when we got into good positions. The try just before the interval probably gave us a little bit of an edge going in [to the dressing room].

At half-time, we said ‘let’s just look after the ball, let’s keep it and they’ll get frustrated. We weren’t annoyed at half-time, it was just about being patient. We knew the space would come.

“And the second half was outstanding, it was an all-round team performance. The thing that is making the coaching staff proud is the squad that we’re building.

"We’ve got some real senior players that are not playing, but we’re building a group. That’s two wins with some junior players in terms of cap numbers involved, so what we’re building is so much better now.

"That real depth is building and that’s probably the most pleasing thing. We’ve not got a squad of 23, we’ve got around 35 players who can play at this level now.”

WXV 2 is ‘a great opportunity’

World Rugby are set to announce more concrete details about their new WXV tournament in the coming weeks.

Scotland will be in tier two and, given their world ranking of nine and the fact that professional contracts have only been in place since December, that seems the right place for them now as they aim to kick on.

"It will be a great opportunity to see where we are against other nations across the world, we are excited to get more games in," Meryl Smith, the player of the match versus Ireland, said.

"I think we have been building for the last few games and we are just excited to see in a few months time how much more we can improve as a group."