Six Nations: Full previews as Scotland men’s, women’s and under-20’s teams prepare for France test

 

Scotland Men vs. France

Sunday March 8, Murrayfield, 7:45 PM 

Weir returns to Scotland fold against tournament favourites

Wigan Warriors fly-half Duncan Weir could make his first Scotland start under Gregor Townsend as he is named on the bench for the squad to face France at Murrayfield.

He made the last of his 27 caps in 2017 before his former Glasgow Warriors boss Townsend omitted him from the fold after becoming Scotland head coach.

“When I reflect on the England game, to have someone like Duncan on the bench would have helped,” Townsend admitted.

In one of three changes to the side, Nick Haining takes the spot of Magnus Bradbury at number eight, while Fraser Brown will make his 50th cap by replacing Stuart McInally.

The visiting team have been tipped by many to emerge as the competition’s winners, having won all three of their matches so far.

Scotland’s form contrasts greatly, having picked up just the sole victory in the Stadio Olympico last week with a 17-0 win.

“We’re going to have to deliver our best rugby of the championship in order to beat a team in such good form,” Townsend said.

“It’s a very different French team to the one we played in Paris 12 months ago, that’s for sure.

“France’s victories have been built on an aggressive and well-organised defence, so the precision, decision-making and attacking game will have to be very good to get in behind them this weekend.

“It’s no different to the challenges we face every week in this championship.”

The game has survived any threats of cancellation due to the coronavirus, while the Italy vs Ireland match due for the day before was deemed unsafe to go ahead.

 

Scotland Women vs. France

Saturday March 7, Scotstoun, 7:45 PM

Scotland unchanged despite two opening losses

Head coach Phillip Doyle has named an unchanged side as Scotland look to bounce from opening defeats in the Women’s Six Nations.

Scotland have not played in over three weeks after their round 3 match against Italy in Rome was postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus in the country.

But Doyle has picked the same XV that would have started against Italy, with hooker Lana Skeldon set to win her 40th cap.

Scotland opened their Women’s Six Nations campaign with defeats to Ireland and England, while France are second in the table after thrashing Wales 50-0 in their last outing.

Speaking ahead of the game, Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm said the team’s rhythm had not been disrupted by the postponed Italy fixture and insisted they were ready to go.

“We’ve had a bit longer rest than we would have had, so I think we’ve got a fresh squad who are chomping at the bit to get going this week, which is a positive,” Malcolm said.

“We haven’t had that exposure to a Test match so we’ve upped the intensity in terms of contact in camp this week, which we wouldn’t always do in the build-up to a match, but the girls are firing on all cylinders and just ready to go again. So I think the break has actually done us good.”

Scotland Under-20’s vs. France

Friday 6th March, Netherdale, 8:00 PM

Frostwick the sole change as Scotland look to edge ahead of France

Scotland and France sit level on points ahead of their penultimate Six Nations match in Galashiels tonight, with one win apiece.

The young Scots are looking to build on their first victory of this year’s tournament following their 30-29 victory over Italy in Round 3 last week., after losing the opening two.

Only one change has been made to that victorious side, as Roan Frostwick replaces Kyle McGhie at scrum-half.

He has impressed for Watsonians this year in the inaugural Super6 tournament and credits time spent with Edinburgh Rugby and playing in the new competition for his step up in standard.

“I was lucky enough to be invited to pre-season with Edinburgh which kicked on really well,” he said. “I’ve trained pretty much the whole time with Edinburgh this season, and being at Watsonians has helped massively.

“There’s definitely a step up from the Premiership to Super6 and then from Super6 to this [international]. Credit to Scottish Rugby for trying to make that transition for younger players into a more professional environment. It has really worked.”

Scotland are yet to beat France at under-20 level, and Frostwick believes that attacking is the only way to pick up that elusive win.

“We had a good go at them last year – I think it’s on the cards [a first win],” he predicted.

“We are a good side, France are a good side, you can’t take that away from them.

“Against England we started well but we couldn’t hold it, and we ideally should’ve won, but if we come out the gates firing, France will be shocked and we just carry on the momentum.”

Women’s Six Nations: Female players are treated differently to men – Forsyth

Jemma Forsyth represented Scotland in the 2017 Women’s Six Nations tournament (Photo courtesy of Jemma Forsyth)

Female rugby players in the Six Nations are being treated differently to their male counterparts, according to a former Scotland women’s international.

Jemma Forsyth has claimed that women’s rugby is still not seen as equal to the men’s despite the sport’s growth in recent seasons

“While women’s rugby has grown in recent seasons, it’s still not looked at with the same sort of equality as men’s rugby,” Forsyth told EN4 News. 

“If you compared it with tennis at Wimbledon for example, women’s tennis is on TV just as much as men’s tennis is, they’ve got the same facilities, they’ll play on the same courts. Everything is exactly the same.”

The women’s Six Nations runs concurrently with the men’s tournament but matches are staged at different venues and female players often have to deal with inferior facilities and playing conditions.

“Women play in the Six Nations exactly the same as men do, the exact same dates, the exact same teams, the tournament follows the exact same structure. But you don’t get provided with the same quality of venue or the quality of changing rooms.”

Former Scotland international Jemma Forsyth spoke to EN4 News about the inequality between the men’s and women’s Six Nations tournaments

 

Last month there was controversy after Wales’ team were left without hot water following their Six Nations match against Ireland, while Scotland and England’s rearranged fixture, postponed due to Storm Ciara, was played behind closed doors even though the men’s match went ahead in front of a capacity crowd at Murrayfield.

The Six Nations also has the widest gender pay gap out of the UK’s biggest sporting competitions, with the winner of the men’s tournament receiving £5 million while the winner of the winning women receive nothing.

Forsyth made more than 20 international appearances for Scotland over two spells but was forced to quit because she could not balance playing rugby with a full-time job, and she said that further investment in the women’s game would help close the gap.

“Rugby is a business at the end of the day, and if they don’t see women’s rugby bringing in money then they are not necessarily going to spend the same money on women’s rugby that they would on men,” she said.

“But to counter that, if you don’t put the money in then you won’t get the same following as what the men get.

“So I think they’ve got to invest more, which I do genuinely believe Scottish Rugby has started to do. They’re definitely going in the right direction with investing more and it has started to grow, and I think it will continue to if the investment is there.”

Julie Inglis, board trustee of Scottish Women in Sport, called on rugby’s governing bodies and the Six Nations organisers to address the inequality.

“It’s quite evident that the Six Nations tournaments are being treated very differently,” Inglis told EN4 News. “Women’s rugby is not taken as seriously as it should be.”

Inglis also stressed that the problem isn’t exclusive to international rugby.

“I can’t say this for every rugby club but there are certainly many where they are treated very differently and the women are almost not taken seriously.

“There needs to be change at board level and committee level all the way through the sport.”

The Scottish Rugby Union supports up 10 female players with professional contracts. England and France are the only women’s Six Nations teams to offer professional contacts to their full squad.

Scotland play France in their third match of the campaign at Scotstoun on Saturday.

Podcast: Scotland look to end France’s Six Nations winning streak

Joe Anderson is joined on the EN4 News Six Nations podcast by Ryan Nixon, Erin McRitchie and Fergus Robb, as they discuss this weekend’s matches. Scotland welcome France to the capital – looking to end the French three-game unbeaten run, and England take on Wales in what will be a tightly-contested match, as Ireland and Italy is postponed amid Coronavirus fears.

 

Edinburgh Rugby: Substance over style will do for coach Cockerill against Cardiff

Richard Cockerill has seen his side remain top of the Pro14 Conference B, despite key players being on Scotland duty (Credit: Edinburgh Rugby Twitter)

A win for Edinburgh Rugby this evening will ensure they stay top of the Pro14’s Conference B table.

Welsh team Cardiff Blues travel to BT Murrayfield for Edinburgh’s third game in three weekends, and head coach Richard Cockerill has stated that he is not too concerned about flare in the encounter.

“I’m not fussy about our style,” Cockerill said. “Substance, physicality and mentality should be ten out of ten for us, and we should go out with confidence to make sure we get our performance right.”

Both sides come into the game on the back of a win, with each side scoring five tries last weekend – Edinburgh against Connacht and Cardiff Blues against Benetton.

“They’re a half-decent side – they’ve got good players. They’re missing a few players but crikey, so are we,” Cockerill explained. “We should be well motivated since we’re on a good run, so we need to make sure we get all the basic things right.

“It’s the same as the last two weeks; the weather will be a little bit better, but we need to be really functional and practical in how we play. We just need to go and win the game; do whatever it takes to win.”

Edinburgh fly-half Simon Hickey says that the team’s defence coach, Callum McCrae, has ensured his side know what they are up against: “They are an expansive team and have the ability to shift it, get it to the edges and cause trouble that way. They’ve got some good set-piece strikes and also some good individual players.”

Hickey’s teammate, back-row Nick Haining, expressed how impressive an achievement it would be were Edinburgh to take five points from the current run of three games during the international window of the Guinness Six Nations.

“I think it’s a testament to everyone in the squad and the depth that we have to have got those results so far. It wasn’t an easy game at Scarlets, but we ground out the win, then we had a good performance against Connacht at the weekend.”

“We’re confident going into Cardiff, and we think we can really take maximum points from that and not give them anything. They’ll be a good side, but we’re in good form at the moment and we’re confident.”

Scrum-half Charlie Shiel will be handed his first Murrayfield start tonight, partnering George Taylor and James Johnstone in a new-look centre for Edinburgh.

They also welcome back Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Bhatti after Scotland duty, as part of five changes to the team from last weekend’s bonus point win against Connacht.

Podcast: Scotland welcome England to Murrayfield for crunch Six Nations match

Joe Anderson, Erin McRitchie and Ryan Nixon of EN4 News sit down once again to discuss the past weekend’s results in the 2020 Six Nations, as well as how Scotland will fare in this year’s Calcutta Cup match against England.

 

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Inclusive rugby team providing opportunities for LGBTQ+ players

Scotland’s first all-LGBTQ+ rugby team’s bid to host the world’s only gay rugby tournament has been backed by officials.

The Caledonian Thebans, who are based in Edinburgh, have received support from rugby associations, including the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), to host the Bingham Cup for the first time.

The team have maintained a strong relationship with the SRU throughout their campaign, which led to them backing the bid for the competition to be hosted by Edinburgh in 2022.

Munro Stevenson, player and chairman for the club, said: “I never thought that I could be ‘out’ and play rugby.

“Those worlds couldn’t coincide in my head,” he exclusively told EN4 News, “There was a lot of homophobia at school and gender stereotypes were strictly enforced.

“There is a definite lack of LGBT representation in professional sport, particularly in men’s sport. There are only a handful of ‘out’ professional men across all sports and most of them come out publicly when they have retired.”

The club has received strong backing from the SRU (Credit: Keith MacLeod)

The team was founded in 2002, and have since played in tournaments around the world including Dublin, Nashville and Sydney.

The Caledonian Thebans are a small part of a much larger association, the International Gay Rugby Federation (IGR), which consists of 85 members and 22 affiliated bodies in 16 different countries.

Stevenson believes that the association was formed in a time of need for the LGBTQ+ community.

“The International Gay Rugby federation got set around about the turn the millennium when there was a definite need in the 90s for safe and inclusive places to go play rugby initially.”

The IGR is also a representative body of rugby on world LGBTQ+ issues.

In 2015, the IGR came together with USA Rugby (USAR) to sign the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the aim to tackle homophobia in rugby.

Lewis Clarke, the club’s sponsorship officer, spoke about how the club has allowed him to be a lot more open with himself and others.

“With the club being inclusive, it’s offered me a context in which I can be my truest self. With that authenticity being accepted by strangers who are now friends, I take my authenticity into other new situations,” he said.

With Thebans now leading the way, Scottish Rugby is becoming more inclusive than ever.

Podcast: How will Scotland fare without Finn Russell in Six Nations opener?

As the Six Nations are set to get underway on Saturday, EN4 News’ Joe Anderson, Erin McRitchie and Ryan Nixon sat down to discuss Scotland’s chances in the tournament.

Haining to make Scotland debut in Six Nations opener

Nick Haining will make his Scotland debut this weekend as head coach Gregor Townsend has named the back row in his side to face Ireland in Dublin.

The Australian-born forward made the switch to Scotland in the summer, signing for Pro14 side Edinburgh, who sit top of the conference B table.

Townsend hopes Haining and the rest of his teammates will be a “nightmare” for Andy Farrell’s Ireland side to deal with. “Our goal is always to play to our potential,” he said on naming a heavily restructured Scotland side for this year’s first Six Nations encounter.

“The challenge to do this starts on Saturday against Ireland.”

Scotland have not won on Irish soil for ten years, while Ireland have been crowned Six Nations champions three times in that period, winning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015, before triumphing again in 2018.

“We must be a relentless collective on the pitch and a nightmare for the Irish to deal with while having the ability and awareness to impose our game at that intensity,” Townsend added.

“As coaches, we put frameworks together and create an environment for them to thrive and reach their potential, but ultimately it’s the players who go out and deliver.”

The aforementioned collective features an evenly split pack – with four forwards from both Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh – whilst Blair Kinghorn is the lone Edinburgh figure in a backline that features two exiles in Saracens’ Sean Maitland and Exeter’s Stuart Hogg.

Full-back Hogg, who was recently promoted to the Scotland captaincy after Greig Laidlaw and John Barclay’s retirement, will have a fight on his hands for the referee’s ear from Irish captain and Hogg’s former Lions teammate Jonny Sexton.

Townsend is taking charge of his third Six Nations as Scotland boss (Credit: EN4News)

Most of the game management is expected to come from the Glasgow half-back pairing of Ali Price and Adam Hastings. They are in charge of a backline which sees Sam Johnson and Huw Jones restored to the starting centre partnership.

Elsewhere, Rory Sutherland returns to the Scotland fold for the first time since 2016, while Cornell du Preez could make a much-anticipated international return off the bench following a gruesome larynx injury he sustained in 2018.

While the back row is more than capable – with an all-Edinburgh line-up of Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson on the flanks, and Haining bringing things together in the eight jersey – the bench suffers from Magnus Bradbury’s omission due to a thigh strain.

Exclusive: Russell dismissal from Scotland camp a ‘devastating blow’, former captain Lawson says

Russell will not line-up with the Scotland team against Ireland. (Credit: EN4 News)

Former Scotland captain Rory Lawson has told EN4 News that Finn Russell’s dismissal from Scotland’s Six Nations training camp is a “devastating blow” ahead of the tournament.

Russell’s dismissal, which emerged on Thursday afternoon, has only been referred to in a short statement by the SRU in which they stated Russell had been “disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week’s camp in Edinburgh.”

Lawson spoke about how the situation will have affected the 37 men who remain in the Scotland training camp.

“I think it’s a devastating blow,” Lawson told EN4 News. “Without knowing the ins and outs of, firstly what has happened, and secondly how it’s been dealt with, I think it’s a big challenge not only for Gregor Townsend and his coaching team but also the leadership team within the Scotland team.

“You think about Stuart Hogg – it’s his first week as Scotland captain with the rest of the squad and something like this gets thrown into the equation. It’s difficult. He doesn’t have the likes of Greig Laidlaw to lean on, who would have been one of the leaders in that decision making group previously. So, it’s stress that this Scotland squad could really do without.”

Lawson went on to discuss the issues that this situation could throw up in terms of match day team selection. The former player believes that whilst Russell is a big loss, this situation could test the depth of Townsend’s squad.

“I think, equally, the strength of any team, or any nation going in to the Six Nations, comes from the depth as well. Injuries and potential loss of players through anything to do with discipline, come within the tournament.

“It’s a blow that Scotland could ill-afford coming in to the competition. Yes Adam Hastings is in a good position, and yes there are other guys who could take that number 10 spot that are on the bench – but it’s undoubtedly a drop off in quality operators.”

Also speaking exclusively to EN4 News, fellow fly-half and former Scotland captain John Rutherford discussed his views on what has possibly gone on behind the scenes in the Scotland camp.

“It’s very difficult,” Rutherford said. “I’m now just like you, in that you’re picking up what journalists are saying or what’s going out on twitter. It sounds to me like he’s probably stepped over the line on drinking protocol. And that he’s not turned up for training.
“I think that has probably pushed Gregor [Townsend] into making the decision to discipline him for that first game.”

Rutherford acknowledged that, as of now, the details surrounding the situation and exactly what Russell’s actions have been, remain relatively unknown.

“We’re all guessing what happened. It will come out. I would have thought that over the weekend, some players will probably have spoken to friends and it will have gotten out. It’s really unfortunate – but hey, it happens all the time, in sport and business.”

What does Finn Russell’s ousting mean for Scotland’s fly-half options?

Following Thursday’s announcement that Finn Russell has been dismissed from Scotland’s preparations for their Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland, questions have been raised about Gregor Townsend’s back-up fly-half options.

Within the remaining 37 men selected in Townsend’s squad, there are three players capable of filling the position in Russell’s absence.

Glasgow Warriors’ Adam Hastings is seen as the first choice, as half-back is his favoured position anyway, while Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson can switch to the 10 slot, as can Edinburgh’s fullback Blair Kinghorn.

Russell was expected by most to be called upon to fill the Scotland 10 jersey throughout the tournament, as his recent form with Racing 92 in the French Top 14 has been outstanding.

However, the short statement released by the SRU on Thursday stated that Russell had been instructed to return to his club “having been disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week’s camp in Edinburgh”.

This means Russell will not travel with the team to their training camp in Portugal – due to take place at the beginning of next week – and will also miss their campaign opener against Ireland in Dublin.

It is not yet known if he will be allowed to participate in Scotland’s other four games – against England and France at home, and Italy and Wales away – but in the meantime, focus will most likely turn to Hastings, Hutchinson or Kinghorn.

Here, we take a look at what each player brings to the position:

Adam Hastings

Hastings is the most likely choice to claim Scotland’s 10 jersey following Russell’s dismissal. He fields the position week-in, week-out in the Pro14 and Champions Cup for the Glasgow Warriors and has created a tight partnership with fellow Warrior, scrum-half George Horne.

Hastings is a lover of the fast, flare-based game that Glasgow have adopted of late, but he is also more than capable at the basics, successfully kicking his 100th conversion in Glasgow’s Champions Cup meeting with Exeter at the beginning of the month. Considering this, and his partnership with Horne, Hastings will likely be fielded in the starting 15.

 

Rory Hutchinson

Hutchinson is regularly used as a centre – for both his club Northampton and in his few international caps to date – but he is also a more than capable fly-half. In 2019, Hutchinson was the top-ranking Premiership centre for clean breaks with 20, metres gained (654) and try assists (6), so he will likely look to bring a more expansive style to the game should he be dropped in at 10.

Hutchinson has not enjoyed much time at fly-half with his club due to Northampton’s ranks including Welsh 10 Dan Biggar. However, he was a standout player in the position at age-grade level for Scotland, and Townsend expressed the thinking when he named his squad that Hutchinson’s inclusion would give him both a centre and fly-half option in one.

 

Blair Kinghorn

Kinghorn is Townsend’s third valid option for filling the position while Russell is dismissed. The youngster usually finds himself in the fullback position, but he did play some of his age-grade rugby at half-back. Kinghorn charted the third-most metres made in last year’s Six Nations with 323 and has been a key figure in Edinburgh’s backline for the past couple of seasons.

His favoured jersey is 15, but following Richard Cockerill’s arrival at Edinburgh, Kinghorn has matured into a confident enough player that he could cover well at 10, as long as he has a confident nine inside of him.

 

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