SCOTLAND coach Bryan Easson has opted for a highly experienced selection to play France on Sunday, naming only one debutant in his starting line-up and another among the substitutes. Rachel Shankland will win her first cap on the wing, but, having been part of the squad since the start of the year, should fit in comfortably. Rachel Law, who is set to join her from the bench, is in a similar position.
It is also a debut as head coach for Easson, the former assistant to Philip Doyle, who left earlier this year. However, given the game against the French was postponed at relatively short notice back in March, the new man will not be coming into the game cold.
Even so, the resumption of the Six Nations campaign after eight months without a match will clearly be asking a lot of Easson’s team. The French are ranked fourth in the world while the Scots are 11th.
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“We obviously were due to play France back in March, so we’ve done a lot of preparation for this match, but we’ve changed a couple of things since then,” Easson said. “France are a physical, combative side who will look to exploit any opportunity they can get, so we are focused on getting off to a positive start and using this opportunity to test ourselves under pressure.
“It’s been pleasing to see the players pushing for places ahead of the World Cup qualifiers and Rachel Shankland has been rewarded for her efforts over the past couple of weeks as she now looks to make her debut. It’s also great to have Megan Kennedy and Abi Evans back from injury.”
Shankland, who will celebrate her 29th birthday on Monday, came relatively late to rugby, only taking up the game in her first year at university. But she has been around the squad long enough to feel well integrated, and Easson believes she can add some useful physicality to the back three.
“It has felt really familiar to come back into camp and try and pick up where we left off in March,” the Stirling County player said. “I would say this side of lockdown I feel a lot more confident and a lot more comfortable and that has been about getting to know the players.
“We’ve been training really hard and it is about bringing that aggression and intensity to our game and put them on the back foot. We’ve been talking a lot about our speed of play, so we’re really just focusing on that and coming into contact really hard so that they don’t get on the front foot.”
The French line-up includes full-back Jessy Tremouliere, who is on the short list for World Rugby’s player of the decade award.
Scotland (v France at Scotstoun, Sunday 2.20pm): C Rollie (Harlequins); R Shankland (Stirling County), H Smith (Watsonians), L Thomson (unattached), M Gaffney (Heriot’s); H Nelson (Loughborough), M McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill); L Bartlett (Loughborough), L Skeldon (unattached), M Kennedy (Stirling County), E Wassell (Corstorphine), S Bonar (Gloucester Hartpury), R Malcolm (Loughborough, captain), R McLachlan (unattached), J Konkel (Harlequins). Substitutes: M Wright (Watsonians), K Dougan (unattached), C Belisle (Cartha Queen’s Park), S Cattigan (Stirling County), L McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), R Law (Edinburgh Uni), A Evans (Darlington), A Sergeant (Heriot’s).
France: J Tremouliere; C Banet, E Pignot, M Peyronnet, M Menager; A Abadie, P Bourdon; L Arricastre, A Sochat, R Bernadou, C Diallo, S N’Diaye, A Berthoumieu, G Hermet (captain), E Gros. Substitutes: L Touye, D Traore, C Joyeux, L Corson, M Mayans, Y Rivoalen, C Boudaud, C Boujard.