Scotland women pursue Rugby World Cup goal against ‘fierce Colombians’

They sit 16 places above Colombia in the Women’s World Rugby rankings but there will be no sense of complacency when Scotland take on the South Americans in Dubai on Friday.

Louise McMillan was impressed by Colombia in their win over Kazakhstan.  (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Louise McMillan was impressed by Colombia in their win over Kazakhstan. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

A place at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in October/November is the glittering prize on offer as Bryan Easson’s side seek to end their 10-year exile from the sport’s top table.

A dramatic last-gasp victory over Ireland in September sent Scotland into this week’s final qualifying tournament and the impact of the victory has had a lasting impact on the squad.

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“It really instilled a sense of belief,” said Louise McMillan, the Scotland openside flanker. “This team has always been spoken about and I’ve backed these girls. I know how good they are as rugby players and in that moment I think we proved to other people how good we are. But the job definitely isn’t finished and we’re pushing on.”

The win over Ireland followed a defeat by hosts Italy and a victory over Spain which combined to see the Scots finish second in the round-robin qualifier in Parma. That secured their place in the repechage event in Dubai where, following the withdrawal of Samoa and Hong Kong due to Covid-related issues, Scotland have gone straight through to the final to meet Colombia who beat Kazakhstan in the sole semi-final on Saturday.

Colombia are ranked 25th in the world and Scotland are ninth but McMillan insists no-one in the squad is taking anything for granted.

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“One of our biggest fears is us getting complacent,” she said. “We’ve spoken about that a lot. We’re here to do a job and we’re not getting carried away. it’s going to be the biggest 80 minutes of our lives and we’ll take absolutely nothing for granted.

“You just have to treat every single game of rugby the same. We can’t put any more pressure on ourselves. Of course we know how important this game is but we absolutely back ourselves that if we play to our ability and our skills we can come out on top.”

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Louise McMillan in action for Scotland during their win over Japan in the autumn. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The Scotland party watched Colombia’s 18-10 win over Kazakhstan (who are 16th in the rankings but were playing their first Test match since 2019) and were impressed with what they saw.

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The South American side’s achievement was all the more impressive given they played for 65 minutes with 14 players following the dismissal of No 8 Maribel Mestra for a late tackle on Kazakhstan stand-off Balzhan Koishibayeva.

“For me, the biggest takeaway is they were absolutely fierce,” said McMillan. “They were so passionate in their contact. Watching them, they were fighting hard for each other: we’d see Kazakhstan make line breaks and what I thought would be tries, and then just the work rate from them to get back and see how much it meant for those girls.

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“So we’re not underestimating them for one second. They’re lower ranked than us, but that was exactly the position we were in going to Italy, so we’re no way doubting at all what they can do. And we’ve seen their passion on the pitch: they’re really together.”

Head Coach Bryan Easson during a Scotland Women's rugby training session at the DAM Health Stadium (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)