Scotland are a team on the rise and the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations is the perfect chance for them to showcase just how far they have come.
Coached by Bryan Easson, Scotland hope to improve on their fifth-place finish in last year’s Championship, when a 27-20 win over Wales in the fifth-sixth play-off was a strong way to finish.
But results since then should give the team real belief they can challenge for a top-half finish, as they come into the campaign fresh from qualifying for the delayed 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
In the European Qualification tournament, Scotland followed a narrow defeat to Italy with wins over both Rugby Europe Women’s Championship winners Spain and fellow TikTok Women’s Six Nations side
Ireland to secure second in the group behind the Italians.
That sent Easson’s side to the final qualification tournament in Dubai, held last month, where they faced Columbia in a winner-takes-all decider for a place at the finals.
An emphatic 59-3 win confirmed a return to the World Cup after missing out in 2017, sparking jubilant celebrations from the players and staff at full-time.
They will now look to back-up that success against their close neighbours over the next month and keep momentum rolling ahead of travelling to New Zealand at the end of the year.
Scotland open up the Championship against the world’s top-ranked side England in Edinburgh in before a trip to Wales a week later.
France then travel to Glasgow before the fallow week, with a trip to Italy next on the cards after the resumption. Easson’s team then conclude their campaign against Ireland on Super Saturday.
Scotland’s squad is made up of a mixture of experience and young rising stars.
They are likely to be captained, as they were for the crunch World Cup qualifier, by Rachel Malcolm.
Malcom, who off-the-pitch completed a PHD at Nottingham Trent University, is a talented blindside flanker who made her international debut back in November 2016 against Spain.
She was set to skipper the squad in last year’s Championship, only to pick-up a cruel injury in the opening game against England that ruled her out of the remainder of the campaign.
Ex-England scrum-half Carry Caity Mattinson is a new face after being called up for the first time for the decisive Columbia match and will add international experience to a squad already packed with quality.
Harlequins and ex-Lille Metropole full-back is another key player, having scored over a half century of points for her country.
This included the crucial last ditch try against Ireland last year, to prevent elimination from the World Cup qualifiers, arguably one of the most important scores in her nations’ history.
Sarah Law is another with big-match experience, and the fly-half’s boot will in all likeliness be crucial to the team’s success over the next month and a half.
On the announcement of his squad Bryan Easson said: “We’ve had an exciting start to the year after claiming the last spot in this year’s World Cup in New Zealand, but it’s important that our focus now turns fully to the Six Nations.
“The hard work and effort that the squad have displayed in recent training sessions has been terrific and our priority over the next six weeks will be about building on the positive progress that we’ve seen over the past year.
“The opening round of the tournament will see us host defending champions, England, which will be a tough test, but I know the players are relishing the chance to challenge themselves in front of a home support.”
Scotland squad for the 2022 Women’s Six Nations
Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning) – 12 caps Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning) – 12 caps Sarah Bonar (Harlequins) – 25 caps Lisa Cockburn (Worcester Warriors) – 23 caps Katie Dougan (Gloucester Hartpury) – 15 caps Eva Donaldson (Edinburgh University) – 1 cap Evie Gallagher (Stirling County) – 8 caps Jade Konkel (Harlequins) – 49 caps Rachel Malcolm CAPTAIN (Loughborough Lightning) – 24 caps Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks) – 24 caps Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill) – 31 caps Lyndsay O’Donnell (Worcester Warriors) – 15 caps Jodie Rettie (Saracens) – 18 caps Lana Skeldon (Worcester Warriors) – 48 caps Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning) – 52 caps Alison Wilson (Heriots) – uncapped Molly Wright (Sale Sharks) – 10 caps Anne Young (Edinburgh University) – 1 cap
Shona Campbell (Edinburgh University) – 2 caps Abi Evans (Darlington Mowden Park) – 15 caps Megan Gaffney (Loughborough Lightning) – 39 caps Coreen Grant (Saracens) – 1 cap Sarah Law (Sale Sharks) – 48 caps Rhona Lloyd (Les Lioness du Stade Bordelaise) – 33 caps Caity Mattinson (Worcester Warriors) – 1 cap Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning) – 36 caps Mairi McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill) – 7 caps Liz Musgrove (Watsonians) – 10 caps Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning) – 37 caps Emma Orr (Biggar) – uncapped Chloe Rollie (Exeter Chiefs) – 45 caps Hannah Smith (Watsonians) – 30 caps Meryl Smith (Edinburgh University) – uncapped Lisa Thomson (Sale Sharks) – 40 caps Evie Wills (Hillhead Jordanhill) – 3 caps
Scotland have a strong history in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations Championship throughout the various eras and formats.
Back when only the four home nations competed, Scotland won the Championship for the first, and so far only, time back in 1998 becoming the first side to defeat England along the way.
After some mixed form during the Five Nations era they were back to their best once the Championship was expanded to six teams back in 2002.
They finished third that season, winning the three out of five, with wins over both Spain and Ireland.
And the Scots improved upon that the year after when they finished second only to an England team that won the Grand Slam.
Scotland won the remainder of their games against the other four nations to secure what remains their highest finish since the Championship was expanded to six teams.
After a tough spell of finishing sixth five years on the spin between 2011-16, they improved with a fourt- place finish in 2017 ahead of Wales and Italy.
There is no reason to believe this current crop can’t at least match that season or maybe even go close to equalling the 2003 vintage and put together a Championship challenge.