Scotland women eye long road to HSBC World Sevens Series core status

By Alex Dudley

Scott Forrest has made four changes to his Scotland Women’s team ahead of the upcoming first round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series in Marcoussis. The Scots impressed during the final leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Biarritz after being invited as the guest nation.

The aim will be clear for Forrest and his team. They know they will have to finish in the top three of non-core teams to reach the qualifying stage for the 2020 instalment of the world series. They will be competing against Italy, Ireland and Spain in the coming weekend’s first round of action.

In last year’s competition, they finished fourth behind Russia, France and Ireland. That finish ensured that they were invited to the final leg of the past series, and they certainly didn’t let themselves down in France.

The squad will be full of confidence after becoming the only invited team to win this season when they beat the Irish. The Scots also finished as runners-up in the World Series Qualifiers in Hong Kong in April.

Liz Musgrove and Louise McMillan return to the squad, while Rachel McLachlan will be looking to emulate her form from the Six Nations; where she made more tackles than any other player. There is also room for Sarah Denholm, who looks set to gain her first cap for the Scottish Sevens after graduating the Scottish Futures U18 7s programme last year.

Helen Nelson continues in her role as captain of the national side, and she will be joined by Hannah Smith, Rhona Lloyd and Jenny Maxwell in the squad. Abi Evans, Lisa Thomson, Chloe Rollie and Megan Gaffney complete the players that played their role in France last month.

Speaking to Scotland Rugby when revealing his squad, Forrest said: “Biarritz was a good weekend for us. We went not putting too much pressure on ourselves and not too much expectation. We were wanting to use it to improve as we look towards Europe. It is going to be a really important summer for us as we look to qualify for the World Rugby Women’s Sevens World Series qualifiers again.”

Forrest continued: “We are going into Europe in a positive place. The team have gelled and developed so much over the last few months and to come away with a win [against Ireland] in Biarritz was a fantastic achievement.

“The Rugby Europe competitions will be really important for us this year, and I am excited to see what the squad will bring to the pitch.”

Scotland Squad: Sarah Denholm, Abi Evans, Megan Gaffney, Rhona Lloyd, Jenny Maxwell, Rachel McLachlan, Louise McMillan, Liz Musgrove, Helen Nelson, Chloe Rollie, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson.

Gaffney, meanwhile, returns to the squad and her inclusion was a welcome boost. Speaking to Scrum Magazine, she said: “I was away last year, so I am really excited to be back playing at this level and to see how the team can do.

“We got a lot of confidence from going so well at Biarritz, against England and Ireland; I’m not sure we expected it as they are full-time teams, but we know we can do it now and it is just about putting in those performances consistently.

“We have shown we can be competitive against these teams and now it is just about going that step further and getting some more wins.”

The Scotland star has noticed a step-up in the quality that the team has since her debut in 2012 against Belgium.

“Sevens is so much more professional now,” Gaffney said. “Me and Scott [Forrest] have been joking that there is now selection headaches rather than trying to find 12 players who are available to play.

“There were years when we went to the Grand Prix and struggled; I think at one time we scored one try in 12 ties, but now we are competing. It is really exciting and a good squad to be part of.”

However, the Scots are aware that there are increased challenges with the team’s improvement.

“I think that is something we are still getting used to,” she said. “We’re not used to that coming from Scotland, but we are learning every single game, and half the battle is being there mentally.

“In a weekend with a number of ties, you are up, down and all over the place, and I think the squad are growing and learning to deal with that better. The Scots will be playing in the pool stage alongside Italy, Ireland and Spain in Russia this weekend.

Main photo: World Rugby

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