Scotland v England: Milestone against mentor for Rachel Malcolm in Six Nations opener

Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm cannot wait to go toe-to-toe with her close friend and “mentor” Sarah Hunter this afternoon when Bryan Easson’s charges take on England in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations opener.
Scotland Women's Captain Rachel Malcolm will face her mentor in Edinburgh. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)Scotland Women's Captain Rachel Malcolm will face her mentor in Edinburgh. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Scotland Women's Captain Rachel Malcolm will face her mentor in Edinburgh. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

A big crowd is expected at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh for this much-anticipated round one clash at noon with Scotland coming into it off the back of five wins in six Tests and England the world number one side.

Malcolm, the 30-year-old back-row, will be winning her 25th cap for the hosts and has become a brilliant figurehead for the squad in recent years.

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No.8 Sarah Hunter leads England and the 36-year-old will be winning an amazing 131st cap at the top level.

Malcolm and Hunter are Loughborough Lightning team mates and good pals and ahead of the captaincy battle within a battle, the former said: “I was very new to rugby when I moved to Loughborough Lightning [from Lichfield in 2017] and I was given the captaincy there despite my relative inexperience, it was a great honour.

“To have someone like Sarah to oversee me through that, put an arm round me when I needed it and mentor me through it meant the world to me.

“She really helped me a lot, I learnt a lot from her and she showed me how to lead by example, that period definitely helped me. She is as great person and a great player.”

Meanwhile, former back-row Christine Belisle has been “exceptional” for Scotland since she moved to tighthead prop and head coach Easson wants a big game from her today.

She took up rugby when she was 15 growing up in a city called Peterborough on the banks of the Otonabee River in Canada.

In 2015 she moved to Scotland, firstly playing for the Cartha Queens Park club in Glasgow and then qualifying to play for her new country via residency three years later.

Her first three Scotland caps in 2019 and early 2020 came in the back-row before she entered the fray against France in the Six Nations game at Scotstoun 18 months ago as a replacement tighthead.

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She won a scrum penalty with her first action as the cornerstone of the pack as Scotland went on the draw the game.

That cameo was enough to convince Easson to start her against England in last year’s Six Nations opener away to England and although the team lost in Doncaster, Belisle was named in the tournament’s team of the week.

She has started the last six Tests now and has 12 caps under her belt and Easson said: “CB has been exceptional, it was her first start versus England last year at tighthead, but you would not have known it and she has gone from strength-to-strength.

“She used to play in the back five of the scrum and the move to tighthead was something I discussed with her and thought it was the right thing for her and her career progression.

“Looking at her development it has gone well, she has moved from Cartha to Loughborough Lightning in the English top flight and that exposure has helped her.

“Her body shape has changed, she is a very strong woman who works extremely hard and makes our set piece stronger, I am excited to see how she goes in the coming weeks.”

The match is live on BBC Two.

Scotland: Chloe Rollie; Rhona Lloyd, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney; Helen Nelson (VC), Jenny Maxwell; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Jade Konkel. Subs: Molly Wright, Lisa Cockburn, Katie Dougan, Lyndsay O’Donnell, Eva Donaldson, Sarah Law, Meryl Smith, Shona Campbell.

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