Rachel Malcolm has been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament after injuring her knee in the early stages of the opener against England. The flanker soldiered on until half-time before admitting defeat and will now miss the game against the Italians at Scotstoun and the classification match at the same venue seven days later.
“Unfortunately, I can confirm that Rachel Malcolm is out for the rest of the competition,” said Ross Miller, Scotland’s assistant coach.
“She picked up a knee injury straight from kick-off against England and heroically fought on until half-time and her timelines in terms of getting that injury right are not going to make her available for the next two fixtures. But it is not as serious as we first thought so that is a real positive, we hope to have her back soon as she’ll be a real miss for our squad.”
In her absence Scotland will be captained by stand-off Helen Nelson, with Evie Gallagher in the frame to deputise for Malcolm in the back row. The Stirling County forward replaced the skipper in the 52-10 defeat by England in Doncaster.
It was Gallagher’s international debut and she made a favourable impression on Miller.
“I thought she did really well,” said the coach. “It is tough to have your first cap against England but I thought she did really well defensively, made her tackles, was good in the set piece and offered herself for ball carries as well. She was delighted to get her first cap as everyone else was for her.”
Nevertheless, losing the battle-hardened Malcolm is a blow for Scotland as they seek their first win in the tournament since 2018.
“No doubt losing your captain at any point for a squad is not great for any team, not having her presence around camp is a big miss, she is an experienced player, vocal and a big member of the team, so it is a loss,” acknowledged Miller, who joined Bryan Easson’s backroom team in the summer having previously been coach of the national under-18 boys team.
“But we have a robust group of players and they will work hard to continue to improve in her absence and that is the biggest positive we have is that the players are a hard working group and without Rachel being there they will be working hard and on task.”
Italy lost 67-3 at home to England on Saturday and there is clearly a sizeable gulf between the defending champions and the two other teams in Pool A but Miller expects a closely contested match on Saturday against a side who won the corresponding fixture 28-7 at Scotstoun two years ago.
“I thought the Italians did really well in the first 20 minutes [against England], their defence was excellent and their ball retention was really good and I think we are seeing competitive fixtures,” said the coach.