Women’s 6N: Scotland confident they are improving despite frustrating finale

Fourth-place finish is same as last year but two historic away wins have highlighted squad's enhanced self-confidence

Ireland v Scotland
The Irish defence get to grips with Scotland centre Lisa Thomson during Saturday's match in Belfast. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

SO is that Six Nations glass half-full or half-empty? Scotland’s campaign certainly ended on a downbeat note with a 15-12 defeat by Ireland on Saturday, a result which saw them drop to fourth place in the final table and miss out on automatic qualification for next year’s Rugby World Cup and a place in WXV1 later this year.

Yet while “frustration” was the operative word for the squad and their supporters after the match in Belfast, Meryl Smith, for one, believes there was a lot to be proud of over the course of the tournament. 

The Championship began with a first win in Cardiff since 2004, then after a 15-5 defeat by France and an altogether more comprehensive 46-0 loss to eventual Grand Slam winners England, Scotland travelled to Italy and won there for the first time since 1999. Scotland’s fourth-place finish is the same as last year, but they ended up with one match point less and an improved points differential. 

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You pays your money and you makes your choice of which statistic to focus on, but utility back Smith is confident that the team are heading in the right direction. “I think we’re definitely getting better,” said the Bristol Bears player, who made her name as a stand-off but played at full-back in three games and at inside centre against England. “We’re building the results year on year. 

“When you look at the big picture, I think we can be proud of this Six Nations. We’ve had two really good away wins, both of them pretty historic first wins in at least 20 years, which is pretty impressive. And to get that result [a 15-5 loss at the Hive] against France – and be frustrated – it’s definitely a good sign. 

“But we know we can be better. And as much as we can be proud of what we’ve done, we want to be achieving more.”

Ireland’s victory at the Kingspan took them up to third place and meant that they, not Scotland, got that World Cup qualification spot and a place in WXV1, the top level of the three-tier global tournament to be played later this year. Scotland will again be in WXV2, the tier which they won last year, and from which they appear all but certain of claiming a place in the World Cup.

In the past there was a case for arguing that Scotland would be better off by playing in WXV2 and thus steering clear of teams such as England. However, the contrary argument is that only by playing against the best sides in the world can you learn how to eventually get the better of them, and Smith is sure that Scotland would not have been at all worried by the thought of taking on those sides in WXV1.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said. “Saturday was frustrating, but we’re competing against the top teams. The performance we gave against France, we were disappointed to lose. And we played Australia a couple of years ago at the World Cup and put in a good performance then as well. 

“I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t compete against these top teams. England are definitely a challenge, but we’re getting better each year and I think we could compete against those teams.

“I don’t think we put our best performance out there [against Ireland], and we believe if we had, that would be us going to WXV1.

“We’ll feel the pain at the moment, but we’ll just use it to get better. It’s frustrating we’ll be at tier two this year, but we’re excited to try and defend our title. There’s no reason we can’t do that, and that’s the new focus.”

Full details of the participants in the three tiers of WXV will be decided later this year after a series of continental qualifying competitions. Italy will join Scotland in tier two, to be held in South Africa again, while Wales could also qualify if they win a play-off against another European team. 

  • SCOTLAND scrum-half Caity Mattinson was said to be “doing well” yesterday after sustaining a head/neck injury early in the first half of Saturday’s match. The 27-year-old was stretchered off following lengthy on-field treatment, but was able to return to the team hotel later in the day.

Women’s 6N: Ireland fightback denies Scotland third-place finish

About Stuart Bathgate 1415 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.


  1. Are they really showing improvement ??? Technically and tactically they continue to be poor. Can’t kick for touch because of a malfunctioning lineout , kicking from hand exceptionally poor therefore negates using this tactic for gaining meaningful field position, a place kicker with apparently very little confidence which then means the option to take points is again sacrificed to opt for a kick to touch and a malfunctioning lineout. All in not a recipe for meaningful competition. Also no competition in the key kicking positions apparently ….
    They would be better simply tapping and going with penalties rather than kicking for touch to gain 10 metres and then a contested lineout…
    Surely their coaches must see this ? Repeating the same errors over and over again is nonsense , be different , inject pace into the game.
    For me it’s a bit like “we see the men’s game doing it so let’s do the same “ – the difference is that the men’s game has the skill level required to make a tactical kicking game viable , the women’s game simply does not…
    The main disappointment is that in the areas Scotland women are poorest (other than tactically), these are the areas that probably benefit least from professional contracts. Kicking , throwing , catching are basic skills that don’t require a professional contract to master and at international level should be immeasurably better than they are at present. I would equate the current Scotland women’s skill level to an average male youth side and by that I mean U15/16…

  2. It’s all about improvement and the Women are showing a consistent rise there. There is obvious confidence in the team and group. Overall a campaign to be proud of.


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