That just isn’t an assertion you might actually make earlier than most of the nationwide group’s video games within the Women’s Six Nations lately, however this time there are sound causes for believing that they’ve what it takes to beat Italy at Scotstoun right now.
One motive is sort of merely the comparative type of the 2 groups. Both misplaced to England of their first outings on this yr’s Championship, which is why this recreation will resolve second place in Pool A and decide who goes by to a third-place play-off subsequent weekend in opposition to both Ireland or France. (If the sport is a draw, by the way, Scotland will progress on factors distinction).
But Scotland, though they have been crushed 52-10, have been extra aggressive the longer their match in Doncaster went on. Italy, against this, started brightly sufficient in Parma, solely to fade badly and lose 67-3.
In different phrases, on the admittedly restricted proof that we have now, Scotland are a fitter group than their opponents. “We hold saying we’re the fittest group to have performed for Scotland,” outside-centre Lisa Thomson mentioned on Thursday. “We noticed that [against England in] the second half and we’re going to indicate that once more, however for the total 80 minutes this weekend.
“We have to start out nicely and imagine we are able to hold going. We’ve been coaching so arduous since August and everyone is simply so excited to get taking part in once more.
“We have been sluggish to get began within the first half two weeks in the past. Definitely we have now to play from the primary whistle, as we all know Italy are an aggressive bunch that can come out at us in these first 20 minutes. They have large ball-carriers and sort out arduous as nicely and can
look to jackal the ball, so our attacking breakdown must be on it.”
Thomson herself is a fairly sturdy ball-carrier, and her transfer from 12 to 13 this week ought to give her more room by which to assault. Helen Nelson has moved in flip from 10 to 12, partly to compensate for the absence of outside-centre Hannah Smith, but in addition to accommodate Sarah Law.
Although she has additionally performed a number of rugby at scrum-half, Law, who’s making her comeback from a long-term harm, is finest suited to taking part in at stand-off due to her game-management expertise – which Thomson believes are second to none.
“It’s actually good having Slaw again,” she added. “Her mind is like no-one else’s. She reads the sport so nicely, she’s bought so many good concepts. It’s thrilling to have her again on the pitch.”
Of course, Law will want first rate ball from her pack if she is to make finest use of her expertise, and in that respect too, the omens are good. As head coach Bryan Easson advised after naming his facet, Scotland’s forwards have made vital progress within the set piece of late. Emma Wassell is a commanding determine within the lineout, Lana Skeldon is on the coronary heart of a formidable entrance row, and the pack as a complete are more and more nicely drilled.
And, even with no crowd, Scotstoun nonetheless gives a level of dwelling benefit for the squad. So there’s a lot going of their favour right now.
Against all that, nonetheless, is the absence not solely of Smith, but in addition of Rachel Malcolm, who’s out injured and has been changed as captain by Nelson. Malcolm’s back-row play is vital sufficient by itself to the group, however her management has been invaluable. She can be missed, and it is going to be as much as different senior however much less vocal gamers corresponding to Thomson to assist compensate for her absence.
And in fact Italy should not right here merely to make up the numbers. They have solely misplaced as soon as to Scotland prior to now decade – at Broadwood in 2017 – and gamers corresponding to veteran scrum-half Sara Barattin give them a hardened professionalism which the Scots have generally lacked.
So sure, Scotland can win this one, and in the event that they do themselves justice they are going to. But in the event that they get off to a sluggish begin they might go away themselves with an excessive amount of to do in a while, regardless of how match they could be