SCOTLAND hooker Lana Skeldon has insisted that Sunday’s Six Nations game against Italy is a “massive opportunity” for the team to end an eight-match losing streak in the Championship. Philip Doyle’s team have already been beaten by Ireland and England in this year’s tournament, but their improved away performances have increased their confidence ahead of the match in Legnano, just outside Milan.
“I think it is a massive opportunity for us this weekend to really show that each game we’re improving and we’re doing the things we’re setting out to do,” Skeldon said earlier today. “I think this weekend is the ideal opportunity to put all those things together – really put the final piece of the puzzle in place and get the result that we want.
“Nowadays we just treat every game the same. Previously we’ve struggled away from home because there’s not that much support out there, but we have a lot of travelling support now and that makes a difference.
“The way in which the camps are set out now, we’re very much ready to go when the game comes around. With the structure of the camp and the structure of the team it means home and away is very similar – there isn’t such a difference now rather than the travelling.”
Indeed, since Doyle took over as head coach last summer, Scotland’s away record has been markedly better than their results at Scotstoun. They won twice in South Africa in the autumn, won in Spain last month, and arguably should have beaten Ireland at the start of this month. At home, by contrast, they have lost to Wales, Japan and England.
“We were disappointed not to win in Ireland, but performance wise we put down a marker,” Skeldon said of the 18-14 defeat at Donnybrook. “Against England [a 53-0 loss at Murrayfield] it wasn’t perfect, but there were things to take forward and we’re moving into this third game ready to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and get the result we’re looking for.”
The 26-year-old was in the team the last time Scotland beat Italy, at Broadwood three years ago, so has the personal knowledge that it can be done. Three losses have followed that victory, two in 2018 and one last year, but, with 40 caps to her credit now, Skeldon can see distinct improvements in the squad’s performances since then.
“They were difficult games,” she said of those defeats. “But we still learnt things from them and I think now we’re in a much better mindset to take on any challenge that is thrown at us. We’re very prepared nowadays.
“I think, as a whole, we’ve just developed as a group. Obviously there’s more support in terms of things on and off the pitch, but I think as individuals we’re all improving – and collectively, when you put that all together, that’s why we’re starting to shape into a pretty good outfit now. So each individual is getting better and with the support we get everything is a lot further along the chain than it was.”