How Scotland plan to prove development when Japan visit Edinburgh for women's international

Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm has seen big improvements in the team’s defence of late - and now she wants to see the attack click fully into gear when Japan visit the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh this afternoon.

Scotland's Rachel Malcolm during a Scotland Women's rugby training session. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

After dramatic victories against Spain and Ireland in Italy in September at the European qualifiers kept their World Cup dreams alive, the Scots are now back at home in front of a crowd for the first time in nearly two years in their sole Autumn Test (4.10pm, live on BBC ALBA).

Before the pandemic hit, Japan were 24-20 victors at Scotstoun in November 2019, but this Scottish side has made big shifts as a group since then.

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Having lost their opening World Cup qualifier to the hosts in Parma a couple of months ago, lesser sides would have faded away, but Bryan Easson’s charges fought back and finished second in the four-team event.

Rachel Malcolm during a Scotland women's rugby training session at Oriam (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Indeed, against Ireland they were 18-13 down with seconds remaining before they strung 18 phases together for full-back Chloe Rollie to score a try and then replacement Sarah Law to kick the match winning conversion.

It all means that they will now battle it out early next year – dates and venue to be confirmed, but it looks like Dubai – with the likes of Samoa, Columbia, Kazakhstan or Hong Kong vying for one final spot left in the World Cup in New Zealand later in 2022.

“A big step forward for us at the European qualifiers came in defence,” 30-year-old Malcolm said. “We had to defend for long spells in the last game against Ireland, but felt comfortable defensively and we have belief in our defensive systems more than ever.

“We know Japan like to play a really fast game, so we will look to shut that down at source and bring aggression to things.

Rachel Malcolm is pictured during a Scotland Women's Rugby Training session at the Oriam. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“A solid defence can give us a good base to build from and we are looking to sharpen up on our attack.

“The attack got better and better during the qualifiers, but there are definitely areas we want to improve on and this is a great chance to do that ahead of the next qualifying event.”

The Scots are at full strength for the match and loosehead prop Leah Bartlett, tighthead prop Christine Belisle and replacements Molly Wright, Evie Gallagher, Evie Wills and Edinburgh University duo Anne Young and Shona Campbell will be involved in a home international in front of a crowd for the very first time.

Young and Campbell would be making their full debuts if introduced and Malcolm adds: “There are a number of girls in the squad who haven’t ever played in front of a home crowd for Scotland, so we are very excited.

“It is a massive chance for us to say thank you to the fans who have been backing us from afar since the start of 2020, especially during the recent World Cup qualifiers, and the best way to say thank you would be to go out there and put in a good performance.”

Louise Dalgliesh, the former Scotland scrum-half, is now an assistant coach to a Japanese outfit who have already made it to the World Cup, so this will be a good test for Malcolm and co as ninth in the world hosts 12th.

Scotland: Chloe Rollie; Rhona Lloyd, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney; Helen Nelson, Jenny Maxwell; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Jade Konkel. Subs: Molly Wright, Anne Young, Lisa Cockburn, Louise McMillan, Evie Gallagher, Sarah Law, Evie Wills, Shona Campbell.

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