W6N: Scotland make four changes for Italy trip

Molly Wright, Eva Donaldson, Francesca McGhie and Lisa Thomson are all promoted to the starting line-up for the game in Parma.

Eva Donaldson
Eva Donaldson will make her first start for Scotland in Saturday's Six Nations game against Italy. Image: N50 Sports.

SCOTLAND coach Bryan Easson has made four changes to his starting line-up to play Italy on Saturday, two in the pack and two in the backs.

Up front, Molly Wright takes over at loosehead prop from Leah Bartlett, while in the second row Eva Donaldson will make her first start after nine appearances off the bench. She replaces Fi McIntosh, who made her debut in last week’s 46-0 home defeat by England. In the back division, Lisa Thomson is preferred to Meryl Smith at inside centre and Francesca McGhie is on the left wing instead of Coreen Grant. The four players who have been replaced all drop down to the bench.

Right-winger Rhona Lloyd will win her 50th cap in the Six Nations round-four match in Parma. Second-row Emma Wassell is still absent for personal reasons.

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“I’m delighted for Rhona,” Easson said. “She deserves everything that she gets and it’s a big weekend for her.

“She epitomises this team – her energy, both on and off the pitch, is second to none. The key thing for her as a winger is scoring tries: 22 tries in 49 caps – we’re hoping for another one on her 50th cap. Her strike rate is phenomenal. She’s a finisher whether it be from two metres out or from 80, she’s got that real edge.”

Asked to explain the two changes to the starting pack, Easson continued: “Molly gives us some real edge – some defensive and ball-carrying dominance. Looking at this game, I think it was a really important thing for us to do – to really get into the game nice and early against a side who we know that, if we start well against, we could really squeeze them.

“So we felt that, but also when you look at Leah and Elliann Clarke, they both scrummage well, and as the game goes we’ve got two really good scrummagers along with Elis Martin on the bench that we can really squeeze Italy in that department.

“Fi was good last week. It was her first cap and it was really important for her to have that experience coming into the next couple of games,  but I felt that Eva brought some real energy off the bench. She’s also a good lineout option for us. We’ve worked pretty hard on our lineout this week and she and Louise McMillan have worked pretty well. She’s always brought us energy – that’s the one thing you can say about Eva. Around the pitch, away from set piece as well, she’s defensively good. She’ll get on ball in attack, and looking at the game ahead, I think it’s an important change for us.”



Thomson and McGhie both ended last week’s game, with Thomson having come on for Smith at the start of the second half as a tactical change, and McGhie having replaced Grant on the left wing after the Saracens player had to go off for a head-injury assessment.  “Lisa brings a little bit of directness, but she also brings that experience,” Easson continued. “She’s a player who can give directness, but she can play different styles of games.

“Meryl has been playing really well this year, but we just felt that with a performance last week that we weren’t overly happy with, that we wanted just to go that little bit more experience.

“Fran has been great. She’s a real threat. She’s got top-end speed, she’s learning the game and it’s a real positive for her to be working with players like Rhona with 50 caps, but also [with backs coach] Matt Banahan, who has played 16 times for England in the back three.”  

Scotland have lost their last two games, having been beaten narrowly by France a fortnight before the England match. However, having kicked off their Championship campaign with a win in Wales, they are still in the running for a third-place finish, which would qualify them for both the WXV1 tournament later this year and next year’s Rugby World Cup. They beat the Italians in Edinburgh in last year’s Six Nations, but have not won in Italy since a 43-15 victory in the 1999 European Championship.


Scotland (v Italy at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Saturday 4.45pm BST): C Rollie; R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, F McGhie; H Nelson, C Mattinson; M Wright, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Donaldson, L McMillan, R Malcolm (captain), A Stewart, E Gallagher. Replacements: E Martin, L Bartlett, E Clarke, F McIntosh, R McLachlan, M McDonald, M Smith, C Grant.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1407 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.