Scotland’s Women head into the RBS Six Nations without a victory in the event since 2010, but head coach Karen Findlay’s new-look squad are determined to punch above their weight this time around.
They start their campaign against reigning champions England away at Esher on Saturday and, with some of the eight uncapped players in the squad likely to be handed a baptism of fire in that one, the team will need to be at their best from the off.
Captain Susie Brown, who has 53 caps and is a solid and underrated performer in the back row, said: “We are really looking forward to the tournament. Obviously England away first up is a tough test, but it gives us a chance to see how far we have come. Every game will be a massive challenge for us but, in a year when we have three home matches [against Italy, Ireland and Wales] we have to target those as potential wins and it is always great to play in front of our home crowd.
“The Ireland match in particular is set to be special as it marks 20 years since the first ever Scottish Women’s international.”
In the backs, the players looking to win their first full caps are Sarah Law, Leanne Neary and Gillian Inglis. Murrayfield Wanderers’ scrum-half Law is just 18 but turned out for the Scotland Sevens team last year and is certainly a big prospect for the future. Melrose centre Inglis is 21, while Neary, who plays for RHC Cougars, is 22.
Scrum-half Louise Dalgliesh is the most experienced back involved, with 54 caps, while Lauren Harris on the wing will be one to keep an eye out for as she has been in blistering form, even being named most valuable player at a sevens tournament in Tobago.
There are five uncapped forwards: Jade Konkel, Bridget Millar-Mills, Rebecca Parker, Kelly Shields and Anna Stodter.
Second-row Millar-Mills plays her rugby for English top flight leaders Worcester so is full of confidence heading into the tournament, while experienced players such as Brown and Heather Lockhart will be key to helping those around them.
Looking back at the progress since the last tournament, head coach Findlay said: “We enjoyed a really positive summer camp, brought in new talent to our Scotland Series matches and saw how the dedicated sevens programme made significant improvements to individual players’ fitness and skills levels, providing a good core to moving the whole squad forward.
“The continuity in the coaching team [with assistant coaches Chris Reid and Scott Forrest] has really helped and we’ve been able to bring in specialist coaches to target specific areas.
“There are plenty of new faces coming through, which sends out a positive message that there’s every opportunity to work your way into the squad.”