Scotland Women’s rugby captain Tracy Balmer is more aware than most that they have not won a match in the RBS Six Nations since 2010, but she believes the current squad have a lot of potential.
In 2013 they lost all five matches, conceding 203 points and scoring just three but, in the home matches especially, they competed well for large patches of the 80 minutes before the opponents pulled away.
On Friday night, they begin their 2014 campaign with a tough trip to Ireland to take on last year’s champions, but rather than feeling daunted Balmer, the Worcester prop, cannot wait.
The 31-year-old, whose father is from Ayr, said: “We obviously have new coaches in place now [Jules Maxton, Derek O’Riordan and Roland Reid] and the various training camps we have had have been going really well.
“They haven’t changed too much, but the girls have responded well to them and Roland has been really helpful with our defence and tackling technique which, at times, let us down last year.
“People will look at recent results in the Six Nations and, perhaps rightly so, think that we have struggled to compete at this level, but I genuinely believe that we are not as far away from the likes of England and Ireland as you might think.
“In a number of the games last year it was often just the final pass that let us down in attack and it almost became a mental thing when it came to getting over the try line.”
With the likes of backs Steph Johnston, like Balmer, playing down south in England’s top flight, they are playing week in, week out at a higher level than the RBS Women’s Premier League can offer.
Hopefully, their increasing skill levels, augmented by the usual solid performances from experienced campaigners Heather Lockhart and Louise Dalgliesh, can help the younger players such as Emily Irving, just 18, settle in quickly.
Balmer, who first played for her country in 2011 and now has 20 caps to her name, was “delighted and very proud” to be named captain following Susie Brown’s retirement from international rugby.
And, on the task ahead of them in their opening match, Balmer said: “Playing against Ireland over there is always a great occasion because their crowd really get behind them. That will be even more the case this time around with them being defending champions and we know the qualities that they have.
“We cannot worry too much about them or get caught up in the occasion, though, and we have to concentrate on our own game, set a solid platform and really go from there.”
Also on the first weekend of the championship England travel to France on Saturday, with Wales taking on Italy next Sunday. When it comes to the home matches, Scotland will be playing England in Aberdeen next month and the French at Lasswade in Midlothian in March.