The Scotland Women’s squad named for the RBS Six Nations features a number of new faces as they aim to put an end to their struggles in the tournament.
The last time Scotland won a match in the competition was back in 2010 when two tries by Lucy Millard in the mist at Lasswade’s Hawthornden ground helped the national side defeat France 10-8.
Since then one draw and 23 losses have been recorded, but a wave of optimism has engulfed the women’s game in this country over recent months.
The appointment of Sheila Begbie as head of women’s rugby has brought more structure and forward thinking to the table while the national squad have been able to meet up for camps more regularly, play training matches and have their strength and conditioning programme more closely watched.
All of which has helped Scotland head coach Jules Maxton pick the players that she wants to take the country forward in an era when women’s rugby throughout the world is growing all the time.
Maxton has selected 20 players who ply their trade in the BT Women’s Premier League, Hannah Sloan from Stewartry and eight who play down south.
Of those from north of the Border nine play for recently crowned league champions Murrayfield Wanderers, while prop Tracy Balmer of Worcester is again named as captain.
The new faces she has brought in include forwards Fiona Sim (Saracens) and Jude Telford (Murrayfield Wanderers) as well as centre Nuala Deans (Wasps) and full-back Chloe Rollie of Melrose.
There is also a recall for Bridget Millar-Mills of Waterloo who famously played against her sister Harriet when Scotland took on England back in 2013. Having made her debut last season whilst at Watsonians, forward Karen Dunbar, now of RHC Cougars, believes the spirit in the camp is as good as she has ever known it and she cannot wait for the tournament to begin.
The 24-year-old, who now has four caps, said: “It has been really good so far this season because we have been able to meet up for regular camps and that has allowed younger players to push for places and for the squad as a whole to work on things a bit more thoroughly.
“The match that we had against Italy as well as the other training matches also helped as it allowed us to try out a few things and also to get to know each other’s style of play.
“All of that should help us gel when we get into the tournament matches and we are all determined to try and get a win this time around.”
Dunbar was handed a tough debut last year when she came off the bench in the 45-5 loss over in Italy.
She admits the standard and speed of the game that day was something she had not experienced before, but now the player – who has been known to play front and back-row – is ready for the challenges that are to come.
“We know that the other teams are strong, but I have been excited by what I have seen from this group of players so far and the young and newer ones that have come in have fitted in really well and keep everyone on their toes.
“It is always an honour to represent Scotland and we will all be going out there to do our best in the coming months.” Scotland open up their campaign away to France on 7 February while they will play their three home matches against Wales, Italy and Ireland at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld.
They also take on World champions England in Darlington. Last year France won the Women’s Six Nations, but England will start as favourites this time.
Forwards: Karen Dunbar, Deborah McCormack, Rachael Cook, Heather Lockhart, Sarah Quick, Emma Wassell, Lisa Robertson, Lana Skeldon, Christianne Fahey, Lyndsay O’Donnell, Fiona Sim, Tracy Balmer, Jade Konkel, Lindsay Smith, Bridget Millar-Mills, Jude Telford.
Backs: Lisa Martin, Gillian Inglis, Nuala Deans, Emma McBride, Claire Bain, Sarah Law, Chloe Rollie, Eilidh Sinclair, Jenny Maxwell, Abi Evans, Mhairi Grieve, Hannah Smith, Hannah Sloan.