SCOTLAND coach Shade Munro has made four changes to his team to play France on Saturday night, the most significant of which sees Jade Konkel make a welcome return from injury. The Harlequins No 8 was badly missed in the home defeats by Italy and Ireland, and although beating the French remains an extremely tall order even with her back in the team, her return has already helped lift the mood among the squad ahead of a contest which Munro has described as “a challenge and a half”.
The other three changes to the starting line-up see Nicola Howat take over at lock from Debs McCormack, Rhona Lloyd return to the right wing in place of the unavailable Liz Musgrove, and Sarah Law start at scrum-half. Sarah Bonar, who was at 8 in the 22-5 defeat by the Irish, moves to blindside to accommodate Konkel, replacing the injured Rachel Malcolm. Jenny Maxwell comes on to the bench as back-up No 9 to Law, with Mhairi Grieve missing out.
“Jade coming back in is really good from a confidence point of view,” Munro said after naming his team. “Just having her walk into the team room rubs off on everyone else and transfers into the training as well, because she is a leader by nature and also leads by the way she plays.
“She hasn’t played for a while, but she’ll definitely make a difference. The plan was to get her back for France. She has done her rehab excellently, met all her targets, and she’s ready to go.”
Scotland, who also lost to Italy in their opening Six Nations fixture, go into Saturday’s game as rank outsiders against a French side who lost to England last time out but got their campaign underway by crushing Wales 52-3. “It’s a challenge and a half playing against France, there’s no two ways about it,” Munro added. “The England-France game was an excellent advert for women’s rugby, and they’ll be looking for a reaction to that loss at home.”
The coach admitted that the squad’s confidence had suffered both during and after the Ireland game, but is convinced that the mood has since improved significantly. “It was a bit subdued when they came in through the door, but that’s all changed. We actually had a bit of a meeting on the Saturday after the Ireland game, which went well. It called a few people out on a few things. It’s about the standards they set themselves. A coach can stand there and shout at people for not doing x, y and z, but it’s the standards that they set. If they drop below them, it’s your job to highlight that and not to let them away with that.
“So they feel sorry for themselves a wee bit. But ultimately what are you going to do about it? You have to address it. And they’ve been pretty positive since then. The chat’s been good.
That was a really good session we’ve just had there. It was buzzing, there were smiles on their faces, which was good to see.”
Scotland (v France at the Stade Metropole, Lille, Saturday, kick-off 8pm GMT): Chloe Rollie (Lille); Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough), Hannah Smith (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Lisa Thomson (captain, Darlington), Annabel Sergeant (Heriot’s); Helen Nelson (Montpellier), Sarah Law (Edinburgh Univ); Lisa Cockburn (Darlington), Lana Skeldon (Watsonians), Megan Kennedy (Stirling County), Emma Wassell (Heriot’s), Nicola Howat (Edinburgh Univ), Sarah Bonar (Loughborough), Rachel McLachlan (Stirling County), Jade Konkel (Harlequins). Substitutes: Jodie Rettie (Saracens), Katie Dougan (Gloucester Hartpury), Mairi Forsyth (Stirling County), Lucy Winter (Edinburgh Univ), Debs McCormack (Harlequins), Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough), Lisa Martin (Lille), Abi Evans (Hillhead/Jordanhill).