Women's Six Nations: Lockdown has seen us treated as an elite sport, says Scotland coach
Lockdown has been difficult for all sorts of reasons but there have been unforeseen benefits for the Scotland rugby team as they prepare for the Women’s Six Nations which kicks off this weekend with a match against England in Doncaster.
An important step forward was taken in their quest for greater recognition when they were included in the return to play protocols.
It means new coach Bryan Easson has had the time and the facilities to prepare his squad. The only thing missing has been meaningful competitive action - Scotland haven’t played since the highly impressive 13-13 draw with France last October.
“It has been really interesting for us since lockdown came in because we’ve been treated like an elite sport,” explained Easson, who was promoted from the assistant’s role after his predecessor Philip Doyle had to stand down last year because he was shielding from coronavirus risks.
“We’ve been able to use Murrayfield, Oriam and Scotstoun, and Scottish Rugby has put in place a lot for us in terms of training weekends when we’ve been allowed to have girls travel from down south as well. So I have to thank Scottish Rugby for all they’ve done for us in the last few months.”
There remains a large gulf between how Scotland and England are funded, as results between the sides have laid bare. England have won all 14 previous Women’s Six Nations matches against Scotland, not conceding a single point in 10 of those clashes and averaging 58 points per game.
Asked how he intends to bridge the gap, Easson pointed to the strenuous efforts his squad have made.
“I think the work the girls have put in over the last few months has been excellent, we have worked hard on areas that we believe have had deficiencies in the past and we have worked hard on skill development,” said the coach.
“We have worked hard in the gym, we have worked hard on systems whether in defence or attack and we have worked hard off the pitch on our beliefs and what we can do together as a team.
“As a group we feel we are in a place where we can put in performances now. I am not going to shout at you and say we are going to win Six Nations and World Cups, but this is a team that is building, progressing and I see us getting better every session.”
Easson’s task has been made harder by the absence of experienced forward Jade Konkel, who is taking time out to pursue a career with the fire service. Siobhan Cattigan will replace Konkel at No 8 at Castle Park on Saturday, and Easson says there is no pressure on the Stirling County player.
“Every time Siobhan has played for us she has played very well. She played at 8 against Spain a couple of years ago and performed extremely well. Siobhan’s always pushed Jade really hard for a starting position anyway. She brings something different.”
The crackdown on discipline that was seen in the men’s Six Nations is expected to be replicated in the women’s tournament and Easson has had referee Hollie Davidson working with the squad in preparation. “We’ve done a lot of yellow card scenarios and red card scenarios,” he said.