Five new caps in Philip Doyle’s first Scottish Six Nations squad

Captain Rachel Malcolm and key player Chloe Rollie expected to return from injury in time for Championship opener against Ireland

Scotland women's head coach Phillip Doyle and captain Rachel Malcolm at Wednesday's Six Nations launch in London. Image ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Scotland women's head coach Phillip Doyle and captain Rachel Malcolm at Wednesday's Six Nations launch in London. Image ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

SCOTLAND head coach Philip Doyle has named five uncapped players in his squad for the upcoming Six Nations as he continues to widen the playing pool ahead of vital World Cup qualifiers later this year.

The Irishman, who took up the post last summer, has already given first caps to a number of players including forwards Leah Bartlett, Christine Belisle and Molly Wright, and backs Sarah Denholm, Mairi McDonald, Evie Tonkin and Alex Wallace during his five Tests in charge so far.

Now Edinburgh University duo Evie Gallagher and Rachel Law will get the chance to earn their first full caps in the Championship during February and March, along with Isla Alejandro (Loughborough Lightning), Coreen Grant (Cambridge University/Saracens) and Rachel Shankland (Stirling County). They have been named as part of a 32-player squad that will meet up this weekend to continue preparations for the opening match of the championship against Ireland at Donnybrook in Dublin on Sunday 2nd February.

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The new faces

  • Evie Gallagher: A product of Stirling County who has been capped by Scotland Sevens and been in the wider squad for a while. “Evie has come through the under-20s and has been in a number of camps with us,” said Doyle. “She is a No 8 who can play across the back row, she is young, but she certainly has the skill set to be an international rugby player and she just needs to work on her knowledge and conditioning, which she will get in our environment. A fine prospect.”
  • Isla Alejandro: An out-and-out winger who has come through the SQ [Scottish Qualified] system. “I believe it is her mother who is Scottish and she has been doing really well down at Loughborough along with the other Scots girls,” said Doyle. “She came into the squad earlier this month and has impressed, so a nice player to have in the wings and we will be working with her hard.”
  • Coreen Grant: The former Murrayfield Wanderers and Durham University player hit the headlines in December when she was named player of the match for Cambridge in their Varsity win over Oxford at Twickenham, bagging a cracking winning try late on. “Coreen is a centre/back-three player and she has been doing really well with us in camp,” said Doyle. “She did well in the Varsity game and trains regularly with Saracens, so it is great to have her in the mix.”
  • Rachel Law: The scrum-half would likely have been on the bench against Spain last week before a niggling injury flared up. “Ever since I came into post Rachel has been in and around the squad and has not missed a training session. She is a very dedicated young lady who wants to play for Scotland like her sister [Sarah],” said Doyle. “It would be nice at some point to have a sister combination on the pitch as long as there is no bickering! Seriously, though, I am hoping that Rachel will blossom in this type of environment.”
  • Rachel Shankland: The centre is rewarded for her consistent form as skipper of Stirling County over the last couple of years. “Her club coach rang me up a few months ago and asked me to take a look at her because he felt she could do well in this environment and I totally agreed,” revealed Doyle. “She has been coming to skills sessions with us and one full camp and has done really well. We will need a bit more time with Rachel to get her up to speed at this level, but she is going in the right direction for sure.

“In general it is great to see some new players coming into the set-up. They can properly challenge for positions in the future and their inclusions are developing depth in an important year for us,” added Doyle.

Malcolm and Rollie set to be fit for opener

The rest of the squad is along similar lines to the one that has been working hard under Doyle’s watch in recent months as the Scots look to bounce back from a whitewash in last year’s tournament.

Captain Rachel Malcolm is back from injury and will be available for selection from the start of the championship while key attacker Chloe Rollie, the Harlequins full-back, is also due to return to action for that match.

Scrum-half/stand-off Sarah Law is also hopeful of featuring near the start of the tournament after her latest spell on the sidelines and she will be key given that other experienced nines Jenny Maxwell (getting a scan after she suffered what appeared to be a long-term knee injury during Sunday’s 36-12 win over Spain) and Mhairi Grieve (unavailable due to work commitments) are unlikely to be seen in this year’s competition. As it stands Mairi McDonald, who made her debut off the bench against Spain, is in the box seat at scrum-half with the younger Law sister as her cover.

“Mhari did a super job over 20 minutes for us against Spain and looked very comfortable, especially for such a young girl, but we have challenges for scrum-half, for sure,” said Doyle.

Prop Megan Kennedy and winger Abi Evans have not been named in this squad due to injury but might play a part later in the tournament.

“Results have not been good enough in previous seasons so now is the time to improve our performances after a positive start to the season,” added Doyle, who coached Ireland to the Grand Slam in 2013. “I have been focusing on pushing myself, players, staff and all at Scottish Rugby to improve and everyone is very much working towards the same shared goal right now.

“We’ve got to make our girls a lot more robust to withstand the physicality of this new game we are playing and Alan MacDonald, our strength and conditioning coach, is doing great work there.

“We must close the gap on every singe country in the Six Nations. If that brings a big ‘W’ then great, but we must start closing that gap significantly from a performance point of view, and it all starts with our set piece and defence. It is night and day from when I started, I had little lambs running around the place and now they have all grown up, and now they are starting to get confidence knowing that their skill set is better, they are fitter and they are stronger, and you saw the proof against Spain that collectively they are able to put a performance together for the full 80 minutes.”

Scotland squad for 2020 Women’s Six Nations Championship

Forwards: Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning), Christine Belisle (Cartha Queens Park), Sarah Bonar (Loughborough Lightning), Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park), Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County), Mairi Forsyth (Corstorphine Cougars), Evie Gallagher (Edinburgh University), Jade Konkel (Harlequins), Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning, captain), Rachel McLachlan (Darlington Mowden Park), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Panashe Muzambe (Watsonians/Edinburgh University), Jodie Rettie (Saracens), Lana Skeldon (Darlington Mowden Park), Emma Wassell (Corstorphine Cougars), Molly Wright (Watsonians).

Backs: Isla Alejandro (Loughborough Lightning), Sarah Denholm (Edinburgh University), Megan Gaffney (Watsonians), Coreen Grant (Cambridge University/Saracens), Sarah Law (Darlington Mowden Park), Rachel Law (Edinburgh University), Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough Lightning), Mairi McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill), Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Chloe Rollie (Harlequins), Annabel Sergeant (Heriot’s), Rachel Shankland (Stirling County), Hannah Smith (Watsonians), Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park), Evie Tonkin (Darlington Mowden Park), Alex Wallace (Harrogate).

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About Gary Heatly 462 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

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