SCOTLAND coach Philip Doyle has made two changes to his starting line-up for Sunday’s match against Italy, bringing back Hannah Smith and Megan Gaffney after they missed the game against England a fortnight ago because of injury.
Winger Gaffney is a straight replacement for Evie Tonkin, who drops to the bench, while the return of centre Smith entails a reshuffle which sees Helen Nelson return to stand-off and Sarah Law demoted to the substitutes. Backs replacements Annabel Sergeant and Alex Wallace drop out of the 23 who were on duty in the 53-0 defeat by England.
Despite the scale of that loss to a squad of full-time professionals, Doyle believes his team are steadily improving, and thinks that the Italians’ high-tempo style will suit his own players. “It will be a demanding match on Sunday, but the way Italy play will complement us as they are a fast side,” he said. “It is sure to be an entertaining match.
“I was pleased with how the team played against Ireland in the opening game of the Six Nations,” the coach continued, referring to the 18-14 defeat in Donnybrook which all too easily might have been a victory instead. “With Hannah and Megan returning to the team it made sense to use the same strong starting team for this important match against Italy.
“England was tough for the team, but there was also a lot of key learnings that came from it. We have been focusing on these at training this week and I am confident that it will make us stronger.”
Scotland’s recent away record has been better than their results at Scotstoun, and Doyle thinks that the more vocal the home crowd is, the more it will inspire his own players. “I don’t think the girls will be daunted by the crowd – if anything, it will be a positive for us.
“To be honest, it’s a great strength of ours. We really love playing away from home and we actually embrace the atmosphere that any home team brings, and we will thoroughly enjoy it.
“We loved it in Spain, we loved it in South Africa. We’re here now in beautiful, sunny, dry Milan and it’s apparently going to stay that way. We’re just about to go training and the girls are chomping at the bit now. Just great to have a bit of sunshine.”
Scotland (v Italy at the Stadio Giovanni Mari, Legnano, Sunday 5.10pm British time, live on BBC Alba): C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, M McDonald; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, M Forsyth, E Wassell, S Bonar, R Malcolm (captain), R McLachlan, J Konkel. Substitutes: M Wright, P Muzambe, L Cockburn, S Cattigan, L McMillan, S Law, R Law, E Tonkin.
Italy: V Ostuni Minuzzi; A Muzzo, M Sillari, M Magatti, S Stefan; B Rigoni, S Barattin; S Turani, M Bettoni, L Gai, V Fedrighi, G Duca, I Arrighetti, L Cammarano, E Giordano (captain). Substitutes: G Cerato, E Skofca, M Merlo, S Tounesi, F Sgorbini, L Paganini, B Capomaggi, B Mancini.