Scotland v Canada: Jade Konkel returns, Rachel McLachlan gets first start

The two back-row players are the only changes to the starting line-up from the heavy defeat by Italy

Jade Konkel makes her long-awaited return to the Scotland team to play Canada on Tuesday. Image: © Craig Watson.

SHADE Munro has made two changes to the Scotland team for tomorrow’s Test against Canada, both in the back row. Jade Konkel is back at No 8 after returning from injury for Harlequins, and Stirling County openside Rachel McLachlan makes her first start.

McLachlan, who was a substitute in the 38-0 defeat by Italy at the start of the month, takes over from Louise McMillan, who drops down to the bench. Konkel replaces the injured Sarah Bonar, Mairi Forsyth is a replacement instead of Katie Dougan, and  Lisa Thomson retains the captaincy.

McLachlan is only 19, and took up rugby just over a year ago, having previously been a judo player for around a decade. While she is still a raw talent, Munro is in no doubt about her ability, and believes she is ready to start at international level.

“She deserves it,” the head coach said. “She’s been very positive around the camp, she’s certainly a bit of a livewire when it comes to playing the game and she’s an out-and-out natural 7. She’s aggressive, she’s dynamic, she’s fit. She doesn’t know the game that well, but she definitely deserves the opportunity to start.”

Now a physiotherapy student at Glasgow Caledonian University, McLachlan grew up in Edinburgh and trained with the national judo squad at Ratho just outside the capital, practising regularly with Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons. After her relatively recent switch of sports she is still coming to terms with some aspects of rugby, but others are second nature to her thanks to that martial-arts background.

“I went to see a few games when I was younger – I wasn’t that keen on it,” McLachlan explained. “But when I came to uni I went to my first session. I absolutely loved it and decided ‘ This is what I want to do’. I really, really enjoyed every aspect of it.  

“The first time I played 80 minutes I was shocked. I was like, this is hard. But rugby is similar [to judo] – you are given short bursts of energy in breakdowns – although the 80 minutes was difficult at first. But I think I’ve got round that now.”

Konkel should help add a more competitive edge to Scotland, not only as an individual but because of the inspiring effect she has on her team-mates. Certainly, such an effect will be needed against high-ranked opponents who will be in the mood to exploit any weaknesses, according to Munro.

“After the Italian performance where we didn’t play that well, it’s really good to bring Jade back in,” the coach continued. “She’s experienced, she’s a strong ball-carrier, and she works hard. Other players look up to her, so she’s a bit of a role model in terms of the way that we want to play.

“She’ll carry the ball hard over the gain line, which is kind of what we lacked against Italy. A lot of it was mental – rabbit-in-the-headlights scenario. They didn’t perform the way that they should have; they kind of just went into their shells and didn’t come back out again.
“It was quite an odd one – we’ve had a lot of discussions about it. If we go into the game against Canada with that same mentality, we’re in big trouble. They’re No 3 in the world at the moment. We can’t be affected by individual mistakes, which they seemed to be against Italy.”

The international match will be preceded by the two national girls’ cup finals, with Shawlands Academy and Biggar High contesting both. The Under-15s Cup final kicks off at 2pm and the Under-18s final starts at 3.30pm.

Scotland (v Canada at Scotstoun, Tuesday 7pm): Chloe Rollie (Lille); Lauren Harris (Bristol), Lisa Thomson (Darlington), Helen Maxwell (Montpellier), Abi Evans (Hillhead Jordanhill); Lisa Martin (Lille), Mhairi Grieve (Firwood Waterloo); Lisa Cockburn (Darlington), Lana Skeldon (Watsonians), Megan Kennedy (Stirling County), Emma Wassell (Heriot’s), Nicola Howat (Edinburgh Univ), Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County), Rachel McLachlan (Stirling County), Jade Konkel (Harlequins). Subs: Jodie Rettie (Saracens), Siobhan McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Mairi Forsyth (Stirling County), Lucy Winter (Edinburgh Uni), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough), Bry Nelson (Watsonians), Annabel Sergeant (Heriot’s).

About Stuart Bathgate 1127 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.