Scotland hand teenage back-row Alex Stewart debut in Six Nations opener against Wales

Scotland team revealed for first match of 2024 campaign

Scotland head coach Bryan Easson believes 19-year-old Alex Stewart can thrive at the top level after he made the bold call of handing the uncapped back-row her debut against Wales on Saturday.

The Edinburgh University law student, who has come through the ranks at Liberton High School, Lismore and Edinburgh Harlequins, now plays her club rugby for Corstorphine in the Premiership. And her performances as vice-captain for Edinburgh Rugby as they finished second in the recent Celtic Challenge and then her work in recent Scotland camps has prompted Easson to give her the number seven shirt for the Guinness Women’s Six Nations opener in Cardiff.

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“Alex is good on the floor, her defensive work was exceptional in the Celtic Challenge as well and she’s a player that gives us a really good blend in that back-row,” Easson said. “She fits in well with Rachel [Malcolm] and Evie [Gallagher] and it’s a really good challenge to Rachel McLachlan [who is on the bench] as well. The Celtic Challenge has been really good for Alex while her club rugby for Corstorphine Cougars before the move into the Edinburgh set up has been a real positive too. ”

Alex Stewart will make her Scotland debut against Wales.Alex Stewart will make her Scotland debut against Wales.
Alex Stewart will make her Scotland debut against Wales.

The selection of Stewart over McLachlan is a big one as is starting Meryl Smith at full-back in place of the benched Chloe Rollie. Smith, the Bristol Bears 22-year-old, has mainly played at centre in her 13 Tests so far while 61-cap Rollie has been a regular at 15 for many years. “Meryl is a good ball player, ” Easson said of Smith. “Her game management has been good of late, I’ve watched her playing full-back at times for Bristol Bears this year and she’s really impressed me. She deserves to be on the pitch. ”

In terms of the other changes from the last Test when Scotland beat Japan in October, Coreen Grant replaces the injured Francesca McGhie on the wing, Caity Mattinson gets the nod at scrum-half and Sarah Bonar comes into the second-row. Front-rower Molly Wright returns to the bench after long-term injury with Scotland looking for a record seventh Test win on the spin.

Scotland: Meryl Smith; Rhona Lloyd, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Coreen Grant; Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm (C), Alex Stewart, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Elis Martin, Molly Wright, Elliann Clarke, Louise McMillan, Rachel McLachlan, Mairi McDonald, Shona Campbell, Chloe Rollie.