Women’s 6N: Mhairi Grieve returns as Scotland seek elusive win against Wales

Rachel Malcolm and Mairi Forsyth are also back in the starting line-up for final home game of the tournament

Scrum-half Mhairi Grieve is back in the Scotland team to play Wales at Scotstoun on Friday. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

HAVING suffered three defeats so far and with a tough assignment against England to come a week on Saturday, Scotland go into Friday night’s home game against Wales knowing it is their last realistic chance of a victory in this year’s Six Nations. They know they can beat the Welsh, having done so at home two years ago, in addition to having lost be just a point in Colwyn Bay last year. The key question for head coach Shade Munro is how to apply that knowledge.

“We are similar in terms of world rankings,” he said. “They’re eighth, so slightly better than us at the moment in the rankings [Scotland are 12th], but all the games in the last three or four years have been very tight, two or three of them within a point.

“It’s not an easy game, playing against Wales. We have to perform to the best of our ability to even have a chance of winning. They’ve kind of learned that lesson during the Six Nations, again.

“It’s that fine balance about how we get them to be really confident without being overly positive about everything they’re doing. But then, you don’t want to be too negative about stuff that they’re not doing that well, because it affects them.  It’s a fine balance, but I think we’re getting there with it.”

The three alterations to the starting line-up see Mhairi Grieve return at scrum-half, Mairi Forsyth come in at tighthead, and Rachel Malcolm restored at blindside. Grieve is a straight swap for the injured Sarah Law, with Jenny Maxwell remaining on the bench as back-up No 9. The selection of Forsyth at 3 sees Megan Kennedy moves from tighthead to loose, with Lisa Cockburn dropping down to the bench. And Sarah Bonar moves from the back row to lock to make room for her Loughborough Lightning team-mate Malcolm, with Nicola Howat being demoted.

“Mhairi is in for Sarah, who picked up an injury at the end of last week,” Munro explained. “It’s more of a niggle really, and she’ll be fine for next week.

“We’re looking to improve our scrum, and Mairi’s strength is her scrummaging, so we’re starting her rather than have her come off the bench. And Rachel is back, which is really good. From a leadership point of view, she’s excellent: good communicator, speaks well, good within the group – a good, enthusiastic person to come in.”

While Munro believes that in the women’s game, props should in general be capable of playing on both sides of the front row, he thinks that Kennedy’s prowess in the loose is likely to come more to the fore if she plays at loosehead. “With Megan, the way she runs about is like a typical loosehead, really. She’s a good ball-carrying prop, so that will free her up a wee bit more compared to playing at tighthead, which takes quite a bit out of her to play there. So that should make a difference, hopefully.”

Scotland lost 41-10 to France, but Munro was pleased by the diligence and tenacity shown against his team’s toughest opponents so far. “We needed a performance, and we definitely got that against a very good team. There was a definite step up.

“They were much more into the game; they didn’t back off. We had line speed in defence, we had low tackling, we had them competing at the breakdown,  and it was the quickest ball we’ve created in any of our games so far. Yes, we conceded x number of tries, but there is a big difference between the two teams.”

There is not nearly such a big difference between Scotland and Wales, but Munro still thinks there will need to be another step up if his team are to break their duck this year. “You want to reward the crowds that have been turning up with a decent performance. We’ve kind of had snippets of it so far, but not put together an 80-minute performance – or a 60-minute performance out of the 80, even. So that’s what we’re hoping for for this one.

“The way they trained today was probably the best session we’ve had in this Six Nations, and it was pouring with rain. That was good to see. There’s definitely a slight difference around the group.”

 

Scotland (v Wales at Scotstoun, Friday 7.35pm): C Rollie (Lille); R Lloyd (Loughborough), H Smith (Hillhead/Jordanhill); L Thomson (captain, Darlington)) A Sergeant (Heriot’s); H Nelson (Montpellier), M Grieve (Firwood Waterloo); M Kennedy (Stirling County), L Skeldon (Watsonians), M Forsyth (Stirling County), E Wassell (Heriot’s), S Bonar (Loughborough), R Malcolm (Loughborough), R McLachlan (Stirling County), J Konkel (Harlequins). Substitutes: J Rettie (Saracens), L Cockburn (Darlington), K Dougan (Gloucester Hartpury), N Howat (Edinburgh Univ), D McCormack (Harlequins), J Maxwell (Loughborough), L Martin (Lille), A Evans (Hillhead/Jordanhill).     

About Stuart Bathgate 1361 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.