AFTER winning an away game in the Six Nations for the first time in 12 years last Sunday against Ireland, Scotland face a demanding test of their mental and physical fortitude if they are to follow up that win in Dublin with another in Padua on Sunday.
The Italians, like Scotland, won their last match after losing their first three fixtures in the Championship, and at seventh in the world are ranked four places above their visitors.
Head coach Shade Munro has made two changes to his starting line-up for the game, one in the front row and one in the backs. Prop Lindsey Smith is rewarded for some good displays as a substitute with a place at tighthead, with Megan Kennedy switching to loosehead and Siobhan McMillan dropping down to the bench.
In the backs, Lisa Thomson drops out through injury, so Hannah Smith returns from the wing to outside centre and Lauren Harris wears No 11 after being a substitute in the 15-12 win over Ireland. Eilidh Sinclair comes into the 23 as a backs replacement.
“Experience would suggest with teams that when you have a milestone and you achieve it, there is an element of ‘Oh, thank God for that’,” Munro said. “So it’s our job to make sure that isn’t the case. From a coaching point of view it’s ‘That was one milestone achieved – what’s the next one? Two wins’.
“There’s no reason why we can’t go over to Italy and put in a good performance, and if we do that we’ve got a chance of winning. Having said that, from the analysis we’ve done Italy look to be better than Wales and Ireland. Their 9, 10, 12 are very talented, good passers of the ball, good width, good speed, good shape to their defence and their attack – much better in some respects than Ireland and Wales. So I would see this as a bigger challenge.”
In last year’s Championship, Scotland ended a long losing run (home or away) with a victory over the Welsh at Broadwood, and they followed that up by winning their next home game too, against Italy. Replicating that feat this time round will be difficult, but one encouraging thing from Munro’s point of view was that his team were below their best at Donnybrook yet still managed to come out on top.
“When you’ve won one you want to win two, don’t you?,” the coach continued. “It’s a big hurdle. You could see in the last 10 minutes [against Ireland] how much they wanted to win it, and they almost tried not to.
“The patience, the calmness required, wasn’t necessarily there, but you could say the same for Ireland. Two teams trying not to win the game, it looked like, but we came out on top.
“Hopefully, as it did last year, that’ll transfer into the last game. So hopefully there’s a bit of pressure off, in terms of the pressure that we put on ourselves to win an away game – we’ll hopefully transfer that into a good performance against Italy.”
Scotland (v Italy in Padua, Sunday, 2pm British time): Chloe Rollie (Lille); Liz Musgrove (Edinburgh Uni), Hannah Smith (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Helen Nelson (Murrayfield Wanderers), Lauren Harris (Edinburgh Uni); Lisa Martin (DMP Sharks), Sarah Law (Edinburgh Uni/Murrayfield Wanderers); Megan Kennedy (Stirling County), Lana Skeldon (Watsonians), Lindsey Smith (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Emma Wassell (Murrayfield Wanderers), Deborah McCormack (Harlequins), Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm (both Loughborough Lightning), Jade Konkel (Lille). Substitutes: Jodie Rettie (Thurrock), Siobhan McMillan (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Katie Dougan (Edinburgh Uni/RHC Cougars), Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County), Louise McMillan (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning), Eilidh Sinclair (Murrayfield Wanderers), Rhona Lloyd (Edinburgh Uni).