Scotland Women ready for the acid test of progress as England come calling

Forwards know they will need to be at their best against top-ranked team in world

Scotland’s pack have made good strides over the last year and now they are relishing their biggest test in that time against the “best and heaviest” opposition forwards from England, says loosehead prop Leah Bartlett.

Any rugby team that is improving needs a strong set of forwards to get the side on the front foot. When Scotland won a record seven Tests on the bounce between last April and last month, the forwards certainly stepped up to the plate at set piece time and they did so again in the narrow defeat to France last time out on March 30. Now they know they will have to take thing up another notch on Saturday afternoon when they welcome world number one side England to a sold-out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh, with the visitors having won this tournament five times on the spin.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Red Roses have started this year’s competition with bonus point wins over Italy and Wales and they defeated Scotland – who have so far beaten Wales and lost to France in 2024 – 58-7 in Newcastle last March. In fact, England have beaten Scotland 30 out of the 32 times the countries have met with the last Scottish triumph coming in 1999.

Leah Bartlett prepares for Scotland Women's match against England.Leah Bartlett prepares for Scotland Women's match against England.
Leah Bartlett prepares for Scotland Women's match against England.

“As a forward, these are the kinds of challenges you look forward to,” Bartlett, the 25-year-old who will be winning her 33rd cap, said. “Up front we have had some really solid performances in the last year and in the first couple of games of this Six Nations, especially at scrum time.

“Wales and France were two teams that we previewed as a pack and thought we had a really good chance to get at them and I think we did that. That is really exciting for us and big stepping stones going into a match against the best and heaviest pack that we are going to face in this competition.

“We know that England are a very good side, but we just need to do our basics really well. We have shown over the past few games that we are a team to be reckoned with and I think that potentially they [England] will have seen that and maybe respect us a bit more coming into this one. I am just really excited to get out there and show everyone just how far we have come as a team.”

When Scotland took on England in the Six Nations match at home in late March 2022, 3,988 people were in attendance. Fast forward just over two years and there will be a Scottish record-setting 7,774 packed in for this one. “People have bought into our brand of rugby and I wouldn’t see the large crowd as an additional pressure, I’d more see it as an onus on us to do our fans proud,” Bartlett, who plays for Leicester Tigers and is one of 19 of the Scotland matchday 23 who are based in England, added.

Before the international at 2.15pm, which is live on BBC Sport, Dalkeith and Marr meet in the women’s National Bowl final at 11.15am on the Murrayfield back pitches.

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



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.