Women’s Six Nations: one new cap in Scotland team to face Wales

Corstorphine Cougars openside Alex Stewart to debut at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday

Alex Stewart
Alex Stewart in action for Edinburgh in the Celtic Challenge game against the Wolfhounds.Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

CORSTORPHINE COUGARS openside Alex Stewart will make her debut for Scotland against Wales on Saturday after being named as the only uncapped member of the matchday 23. Otherwise, the team is made up of players who contributed to last year’s record-equalling run of six consecutive victories, although there are also some significant absences.

Chloe Rollie, who has not played for several weeks because of injury, only wins a place on the bench – Meryl Smith takes over at full-back. Head coach Bryan Easson confirmed that Jade Konkel is likely to miss the whole Six Nations, although Francesca McGhie and Beth Blacklock are making their way back from injury and could feature in later rounds of the Championship. 

“Alex is good on the floor,” Easson said after naming 19-year-old Stewart in his team for the match at Cardiff Arms Park. “Her defensive work was exceptional [in the Celtic Challenge] as well and she gives us a really good blend in that back row. She fits in well with Rachel [Malcolm] and Evie [Gallagher] and it’s a really good challenge to Rachel McLachlan as well. The Celtic Challenge has been really good for her.”


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Smith is better known as a stand-off or centre, but has turned out at 15 in Premier Women’s Rugby and is a danger to defences no matter the number on her back. “She’s a good ball-player, she’s a good kicker, her game management has been good too,” Easson said.

“To have her and Helen Nelson on the pitch – you get to certain positions and you’ve got a first receiver either side. I’ve watched her playing full-back for Bristol Bears this year and she’s really impressed me. The performances she’s putting in mean she deserves to be on the pitch.

Chloe Rollie has 61 caps and I don’t think she’s ever been on the bench before. She has been out for a while and hasn’t played since the middle of January, so she’s not had that opportunity to really show how sharp she is. 

“Meryl has been playing well at Bristol, but to have a player of the experience and ability of Chloe shows that strength that we’ve now got. It’s making sure she’s sharp enough to play an international Test match. Whether Chloe was injured or not, it would have been a discussion around performance anyway, so it’s a real positive.”  

Asked if Konkel would miss the whole tournament, Easson added: “I think so. She’s had a syndesmosis injury and she’s running, but she’s still feeling a bit of discomfort. “I had a good chat with her – I speak to her regularly – and it’s disappointing someone like Jade is out, but she understands there’s a bigger picture with WXV and World Cups ahead, so she needs to get her recovery right.”

Blacklock, on the other hand, should be available for selection after the first couple of matches, while McGhie is on track to have completed her recovery by then.

“Beth had a small injury that we were looking at about four weeks, so we’re hoping she’ll be back just after the fallow week,” Easson said. 

“Francesca is very close. She’s been in with the squad this week running and she’s moving in the right direction. We just want to make sure she is 100 per cent. She put in some brilliant performances last year but she’s still young. She’s not far away at all.”

There was a time when the absence of a key player such as Konkel would have come as a major blow, but the depth of the squad has increased of late to the extent that no-one is sure of their position and the coaching team have some difficult in selection. “It’s really nice to have those decisions to make,” Easson said. “It probably is the strongest squad I’ve been involved with. 

“That is testament to the clubs, to the Celtic Challenge and the players themselves who have put in the work. When you are sitting looking at a bench that has got Shona Campbell, Chloe, Rachel McLachlan, you’ve got some players there that when you want to change the game, you’ve got potential  to do that. It’s testament to the squad we’ve got. It is a hard decision.” 

 

Scotland (v Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, Saturday 4.45pm): M Smith (Bristol Bears); R Lloyd (GB Sevens/ Stade Bordelais), E Orr (Heriot’s Blues), L Thomson (GB Sevens), C Grant (Saracens); H Nelson (Loughborough Lightning),C Mattinson (Gloucester-Hartpury); L Bartlett (Leicester Tigers), L Skeldon (Bristol Bears), C Belisle (Loughborough Lightning), E Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), S Bonar (Harlequins), R Malcolm ((Loughborough Lightning, captain), A Stewart (Corstorphine Cougars), E Gallagher (Bristol Bears). Replacements: E Martin (Leicester Tigers), M Wright (Sale Sharks), E Clarke (Bristol Bears), L McMillan (Saracens), R McLachlan (Sale Sharks), M McDonald (Exeter Chiefs), S Campbell (GB Sevens), C Rollie (Loughborough Lightning). 


City-centre statues pay tribute to key Scotland Women trio

About Stuart Bathgate 1392 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 Comment

  1. Well done, and congratulations on your first cap Alex. Your performances in the Celtic Challenge were outstanding. It is exciting to see our Ladies team going from strength to strength, and the depth of talent getting deeper. Well done to their Development team.

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