Scotland coach Shade Munro has made just one change to his starting line-up for Friday’s Six Nations Championship match against England, restoring Sarah Bonar to the back row after injury ruled her out of the 26-3 defeat by France a fortnight ago. Perhaps more significantly, Jade Konkel remains at No 8 rather than returning to loosehead as Munro seeks maximum defensive solidity against opponents to whom Scotland lost 64-0 last year.
Konkel started at prop against Wales, and only moved to the back row to face the French after Bonar, usually a lock, was forced to withdraw shortly before kick-off. The coaching team’s aim in playing Konkel up front and centre Hannah Smith in the back row, among other positional switches, was to have all of the squad’s best ball-players on the pitch at once. Now, however, that experiment is over, at least for the time being.
“Sarah’s fit, she’s passed all her fitness tests, she comes back in – there was no hassle there, really,” Munro said, explaining that the Aberdeen-born forward’s selection did not require too much debate. “The decision we had to make was whether we move Jade back to prop.
“Jade was very effective at No 8 against France – she’s certainly effective in a retreating scrum, which can sometimes happen against the likes of France and England. We’ve gone for Siobhan McMillan at prop and Jade at 8, with Sarah and Rachel Malcolm either side of her in the back row.
“Hannah is on the bench as a back. We’ve run the experiment of her being a back-row player, which she actually did pretty well – she’s not let anybody down there. She has a preference for playing at centre.”
Lapses of concentration proved costly at Scotstoun against the French, although Munro was encouraged by the improvement in defence. He will demand further improvement against England, while being realistic enough to know that his squad will be stretched to the limit by opponents who, at No 2 in the world, are 10 places above them in the rankings.
“It’s pretty much the same approach as against France. The question now is can they replicate what they did in that game against England – and can they replicate it for longer?
“Against France, the team defended really well for a number of phases, but they couldn’t sustain it. Our challenge will be to stop them getting quick ball, stop them getting go-forward, and then stop them going wide.”