SCOTLAND coach Bryan Easson has become accustomed to making do and mending during his time in charge of the national side. Some key players have been unavailable at times because of work commitments, others because of injury.
For tomorrow’s Rugby World Cup qualifying tie against Italy, however, Easson has been able to name his strongest, most experienced team. Jade Konkel, Sarah Bonar and Rachel Malcolm are all, as expected, back in the pack, while only two players in the starting line-up – props Leah Bartlett and Christine Belisle – have made fewer than ten Test appearances.
Scotland lost to Italy at home in the Six Nations, but they recovered from that disappointment to defeat Wales, and go into this first game of the four-nation qualifying tournament in a very positive frame of mind, according to Easson. “The squad have worked tirelessly over the past year to get to this point, but we know that this group of players will fully embrace the challenge ahead and will give it everything on the pitch,” he said today [Sunday] after naming his squad of 23.
“I’ve been really encouraged by the level of work and detail that the full squad has produced in camp this week and the focus now is to keep believing in ourselves. We know that the game against Italy is of vital importance to qualification chances and we’ll be looking to deliver a full 80-minute performance tomorrow.”
All games in the European qualifying tournament are taking place in Parma, and the Italians are top seeds. Scotland’s next match is against Spain on Sunday 19, then they take on Ireland on Saturday 25. The winners of the round robin qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup finals in New Zealand, while the runners-up go into a final global qualifying tournament.
Scotland (v Italy at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, Monday 2pm British time): C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, J Maxwell; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, S Bonar, R Malcolm (captain), L McMillan, J Konkel. Substitutes: M Wright, L Cockburn, K Dougan, R McLachlan, E Gallagher, M McDonald, S Law, E Musgrove.