AS SCOTLAND Women get set to open their RBS Six Nations campaign for 2014 away to Ireland in Ashbourne, County Meath, on Friday night, one of the squad’s most experienced players has been looking ahead with relish to a new era.
RHC Cougars scrum-half Louise Dalgliesh is set to play in her 11th Six Nations in the coming weeks, having made her Scotland debut over a decade ago as a 22-year-old.
Now Dalgliesh has 62 caps under her belt and has been involved in many highs and lows in the famous dark blue jersey since then.
Despite at times during matches in last year’s tournament being able to compete with opponents, the bare facts are that the Scots finished bottom of the table, scoring just three points and conceding 203 during their five encounters.
It means that they have not won a match in the showcase event since 2010 and indeed after last year there were discussions held about the possibility of the women’s Six Nations becoming a two-tiered event.
Dalgliesh said: “For the players that was a concern because we obviously want to be playing against the best teams in the world and to not have the chance to play against the likes of England and Ireland would have been a real blow.
“We need to be involved in the Six Nations to help the women’s game grow in this country and I think we are slowly starting to see more youngsters taking up the sport and coming through into the international scene.
“After last year I did think to myself perhaps that I would step back from international selection, but the desire to play for Scotland has never left and I get a huge buzz from being part of it all.
“We know results in the past few years have not been great, but we are all committed to making sure we get positive results in this tournament sooner rather than later.”
Dalgliesh, a teacher by day, has enjoyed the various training camps so far under the guidance of the new coaching team of Jules Maxton, Derek O’Riordan and Roland Reid, while players such as Ayr’s Emily Irving have made the step up from the Under-20s.
Prop Tracy Balmer has taken over the captaincy from Susie Brown, the latter having retired from international rugby, and Dalgliesh knows exactly what herself and the rest of the backline need to keep working on in the coming weeks. “It is clear that we haven’t scored enough tries in recent years and we know, as backs, that when we get possession of the ball we need to make it count. It all comes down to confidence and being able to execute the plans that we set out, so we will be striving to do that this year.”
England won the Six Nations every year from 2006 to 2012, indeed only once failing to win the Grand Slam, before Ireland broke that dominance 12 months ago. They saw off Scotland 30-3 at Lasswade on their way to that Grand Slam and Dalgliesh believes it was positive for the women’s game generally that another country’s name was engraved on the trophy.
“England have set the benchmark for the level that we all want to reach, but hats off to Ireland for wrestling the title away from them last year. I think it shows what can be done if you get off to a good start and gain confidence.
“We are all excited to get started and we are ready for the match.
“Some of the newer players may be a bit nervous, but we have enough experience to help them through this game and then get more used to the pace of the game at this level.”
The Scotland squad for Friday’s opener is due to be announced today.
England, meanwhile, play France on Saturday with Wales taking on Italy on Sunday.
31 January, v Ireland (Ashbourne RFC 7.30pm)
9 February, v England (Rubislaw 2pm)
23 February, v Italy (Stadio Parco Urbano, TBC)
9 March, v France (Hawthornden, 2pm)
16 March, v Wales (Talbot Athletic Ground, 2pm)