Bryan Easson believes Scotland squad have made the most out of lockdown

Head coach says his players are as ready as they will ever be ahead of Six Nations kick-off against England next weekend

Bryan Easson impart some words of wisdom to the Scotland squad during a training session. Image: © Craig Watson -
Bryan Easson impart some words of wisdom to the Scotland squad during a training session. Image: © Craig Watson -

SOME of his players haven’t been involved in a proper rugby match for over a year, others haven’t played since the team’s excellent draw against France last October, and those who are attached to the Allianz Premier 15s league in England have had the opportunity to play right through the winter. It is hardly an ideal situation to be in ahead of the start of the Six Nations, which kicks off with a daunting trip to Doncaster to take on England next Saturday, but head coach Bryan Easson insists that his squad is in pretty good shape.

“It has been a tough time for everyone, the pandemic and the lockdowns have meant that we have been unable to play, but we have been privileged that we have been able to train at Murrayfield and Oriam and we have had some camps as well when we’ve been able to integrate the exiles,” he said. “We have tried as well to have as many hit-outs as we could internally, and with an extended training squad of 33-34 players we have been able to play 15 versus 15 as much as possible.

Hollie Davidson [one of Scotland’s top referees, who took charge of her first PRO14 match last weekend] has come in almost every Saturday and refereed for us, so we have put it into game scenarios whether it be blocks of 10 minutes, 20 minutes or half an hour and we have tried to build up game intensity as best we can.

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“They have been internal games, but from the GPS and data we have we know some of them have been over and above the intensity of Test matches from the last few years.

“It has been the longest pre-season ever and we have been able to work on skill development, we have done a lot of fitness work and we have used this time as best as we can, but to gauge where you are in terms of games is impossible. We now want to showcase what we have been doing in training and for the girls to transfer the stuff from the training field onto the pitch versus England.

Scotland couldn’t have asked for a tougher start. England are the number one ranked team in the world (to Scotland’s 11th) and have beaten Scotland 22 times on the bounce since 1999, and usually by some considerable distance, most recently by 53 points to nil at Murrayfield last February.

“To be fair it doesn’t matter who we face in the first game, we hadn’t played for a few months before France [Scotland managed a magnificent draw in that match] and preparation will have been difficult for all, so it is just really important that we are able to play games,” was Easson’s take. “Whoever it is, doesn’t bother us one bit, we just want to get on the pitch and play a game and put in a performance we can be proud of.”

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Easson named four uncapped players earlier today [Thursday] in the 31 strong training squad which will prepare for the England game.

Evie Wills is a 10 or 12, a good distributor off left and right hand, and she has been working on some kicking with Chris Paterson on a weekly basis too,” he explained.

Evie Gallagher is a No 8, back-row. She used to play in the midfield when she was younger and has good distribution. So, she has the skills to be able to play in the back-row and convert to midfield.

“We have been really lucky to bring both Evies in over the last few months, players that we felt were on the cusp of coming into the squad, and it was important that we had an elite squad that was big enough for us to train these types of players up to the levels needed. Over the last few months they have really pushed themselves into the frame for selection into the tighter squad of 25 [to be announced next week] through hard work.

Shona Campbell is another exciting prospect. She is a winger, who is just a 19-year-old, and has played touch rugby for Scotland. She has serious gas, is really coachable and has taken on board everything that has been asked of her.

Coreen Grant got a blue last year playing for Cambridge versus Oxford in the Varsity match [scoring a try and being named player-of-the-match] and she has been playing at Saracens. She is another one who hasn’t been playing down South this year because she came home to Edinburgh during lockdown, so she has been training with the homegrown players up here. She is a 13 who can also play in the back-three and has potential.”

On the flip side, Jade Konkel and Sarah Bonar – who have been stalwarts of the side in recent years – will not be involved in this Six Nations because they are away training with the fire brigade and army respectively, but Easson takes solace in the fact that both are committed to returning to the rugby once their career paths allow it.

“We have worked very closely with the players, and something I am very strong on with any group is person first, player second,” said Easson. “Rugby stopped, but players’ lives continued and they have to think of their lives out with the game.

“To lose any players with a number of caps is disappointing, but by losing them for a chunk of time we actually get to look at other players. We still have to qualify for the World Cup, and we might have a World Cup to look forward to, so rather than look at it as a disappointment, we are viewing it as a positive to develop players over this next block.”

Four uncapped players in Scotland’s Six Nations squad

About David Barnes 4004 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

1 Comment

  1. Go ladies! This is certainly not a patronising comment but is it wise (safe even?) to allow some amateur players to go up against 15 full-time English professional players? You can train all you like but there is no substitute for genuine contact.

    There’s no way the Scotland men’s team would be allowed to play, say, Ayr next week so how is this much different?

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