SCOTLAND would appear to be on a hiding to nothing this afternoon at Twickenham, when their last chance of avoiding a Women’s Six Nations whitewash is somehow to defeat an England side who are going for the Grand Slam. But stand-off Helen Nelson has insisted that her side can take the game to England today at Twickenham, and that whatever happens in this match, the team will emerge stronger from a Nations Championship that has been a very tough experience.
While the Scots have been defeated in every outing thus far, Nelson, the stand-off, has taken heart from an improved performance in the last game against Wales, when only a last-minute converted try at Scotstoun gave the visitors a 17-15 win. She is well aware that further improvement will be needed against England, but believes she and her colleagues can rise to the occasion.
“The girls are really excited,” the 24-year-old said. “Playing against England is always a big occasion and we know they’re fully professional and they’re improving all the time. We’ve improved game on game and we see it as a big opportunity to really show what we can do – take the game to them. Defensively I think we played really well against Wales, so now it’s building on our attack, keeping the defence there and going out and showing what we can do.
“Immediately after the [Wales] game players were pretty disappointed and frustrated. I think we were disappointed with the loss, but our performance had improved, so players aren’t too down about it because they see we’re on a journey and we’re getting better. This game against England at Twickenham is something to look forward to, and everyone is feeling really up for it.”
It is difficult to see anything other than a convincing home win this afternoon, and in terms of results that fifth loss would represent a backward step for Scotland after they won one game last year and two in 2017. But there have been improvements in some areas – notably the scrum, which has been far more solid, and the midfield, in which Nelson is part of a more efficient trio also including Lisa Thomson and Hannah Smith The No 10 is convinced that such progress will continue, and has been most encouraged by the squad’s growing strength in depth.
“We’re improving all the time. We’re such a young group and we’re getting more and more depth in each position. We’ve had quite a few injuries, especially in the back row, this Six Nations, and younger players [have stepped] up and then played in other positions, like Sarah Bonar has gone between back row and second row, so we’re adapting individually.
“Certain players have really come on, and that’s almost in the face of adversity. It’s not been an easy run this Six Nations, but we’ll be a lot better and a lot stronger for it in years down the line.”
England (v Scotland at Twickenham, Saturday, 7.40pm): Sarah McKenna; Jess Breach, Emily Scarratt, Zoe Harrison, Kelly Smith; Katy Daley-Mclean, Natasha Hunt; Hannah Botterman, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Poppy Cleall, Abbie Scott, Sarah Beckett, Vicky Fleetwood, Sarah Hunter. Substitutes: Lark Davies, Vickii Cornborough, Shaunagh Brown, Catherine O’Donnell, Marlie Packer, Leanne Riley, Rachael Burford, Emily Scott.
Scotland: Chloe Rollie; Rhona Lloyd, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Annabel Sergeant; Helen Nelson, Jenny Maxwell; Megan Kennedy, Lana Skeldon, Mairi Forsyth, Emma Wassell, Nicola Howat, Sarah Bonar, Rachel McLachlan, Jade Konkel. Substitutes: Jodie Rettie, Lisa Cockburn, Katie Dougan, Panashe Muzambe, Deborah McCormack, Mhairi Grieve, Lisa Martin, Abi Evans.