Six Nations: Hannah Smith return explained as Scotland Women name line-up for opener against England

Hannah Smith’s experience and defensive qualities in the outside centre channel have earned her an instant return to the Scotland starting XV following suspension for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations opener against England on Saturday.

Scotland head coach Bryan Easson would have been well within his rights to name an unchanged backline from the one that caused Colombia so much damage in Dubai last month as Scotland progressed to the World Cup.

However, 29-year-old Smith, the Watsonians player who has 30 caps to her name and who was part of the Great Britain squad at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo, comes back into her usual number 13 jersey.

She missed the Colombia game following a World Rugby suspension after an incident in the Autumn against Japan.

Hannah Smith has returned from suspension and will start Scotland Women's Six Nations opener against England. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

However, Easson has accommodated her availability by dropping Sarah Law down to the bench with Lisa Thomson moving from 13 to 12 and vice-captain Helen Nelson from 12 to 10.

“Hannah is an experienced player in that 13 channel and I think it is important that we have as much experience on the pitch in important areas when we are playing the best team in the world,” Easson explains.

“When you go into the first game of a Six Nations against a team like England, the more experience you have the better.

“To have Hannah back allows us to do different things and play slightly differently. Hannah’s experience will show in this game.”

It is the only change from the Colombia match as Scotland head into the round one lunchtime showdown at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh on the back of five Test wins in six and sitting ninth in the world.

Worcester Warriors second-row Lyndsay O’Donnell, last capped in 2017, joins the bench as does uncapped 20-year-old Edinburgh University back Meryl Smith.

Sarah Bonar is unavailable as she is on RAF duty, but will be available for the rest of the tournament, while some other players are missing due to "Covid cases and illnesses".

No.8 Jade Konkel will win her 50th cap and Easson said: “She gives us a real dynamic edge.”

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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