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.

Hibernian: Ross unsurprised at McNulty ban

 

Hibernian manager Jack Ross was unsurprised at Marc McNulty’s two-match ban after the club accepted an SFA charge against the striker.

The on-loan Reading man was cited by the governing body’s compliance officer after stamping on the back of Hearts’ Sean Clare in the first half of Tuesday night’s Edinburgh Derby defeat at Easter Road.

With Hibs accepting the ban in time for the weekend, they will be without McNulty for tomorrow’s trip to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen, and against St Johnstone at home seven days later.

“I wasn’t even aware of the incident when I came to do my initial post-match interviews,” Ross said before the club accepted the ban.

“I don’t want to prejudice anything we do moving forward but when I say I’m not surprised that we’ve received a notice of complaint, I think that gives you my best indication of [his views on the incident] because the footage speaks for itself in that respect.

“You can’t get inside people’s heads, but football is a very emotive game and things happen in split seconds. But in terms of what the footage shows, it’s not great.

“If [a ban] is the outcome then it is a blow for us as we don’t have a plethora of striking options.”

With a gap now appearing in Hibs’ already thin forward line, there is a chance for young striker Jamie Gullan to make his first start for the club as Ross claimed he is now a legitimate first-team option.

The 20-year old scored his first senior goal for the Hibees in last week’s Scottish Cup quarter-final win against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and came on as a substitute against Hearts, but is yet to start a game for the club.

“He’s ready to start games,” Ross said of Gullan. “The only reason he hasn’t started is because we’ve been doing well in an attacking sense.

“He came on in difficult circumstances [against Hearts], I think we had just conceded the second goal, and I think with his first or second touch he put the ball out of the pitch.

“I look at things like that to see how players react to it, and he was good after that. He’s involved in our goal and he was bright in difficult circumstances.

“If and when he’s required, and the opportunity presents itself, I have no qualms about using him.”

Ross’ side will travel up north still without the services of midfielder Joe Newell, who hasn’t featured since an injury away to Kilmarnock last month.

Hearts: Stendel predicts relegation fight will go down to final day

Hearts manager Daniel Stendel has predicted that his side’s fight for Scottish Premiership survival will go down the final day of the season.

The Jambos’ emphatic 3-1 derby win over Hibernian on Tuesday night lifted them off the foot of the table for a mere 24 hours, before Hamilton’s shock victory over Rangers the following night dragged them back to the foot of the table.

Stendel believes that his team will need to drag other sides into the basement battle and thinks that the fight for survival will go right down to the wire despite an upturn in form.

“We have five games left [before the split]. The situation is not comfortable for us, but it hasn’t changed,” he said. “We knew it would be good if we won this game, but it still hasn’t changed for us.

“It’s important we collect more points; not that we look to Hamilton every time, but we collect our points. We let a lot of points slip, and the time is over for us to do this again. When we win our points, we don’t depend on the others.

“We need more results. Sometimes we will win games and other times the other team will win games. I think it will be decided on the last game.

“The first time all season we won two big games in a row. It’s a good sign that we can do it.”

Stendel has recently abandoned his favoured gegenpressing approach for a more disciplined style of play, and impressive victories over the Hibees and Rangers have renewed optimism in what has been a disappointing season so far.

“I think this is the first time this season we won two big games in a row. It shows we can do it,” he said.

“The kind of play in both games is the main point for me to take from the games. We showed a mentality on Tuesday, and our discipline was important.

“The situation is good for me and the players. We have more experiences when we work together, and when we do work together and have the right discipline and behaviours on the pitch, we will get the chances to win the game.”

Hearts face a Motherwell side who claimed an impressive 4-1 victory over Ross County on Wednesday. The Jambos will still be without Toby Sibbick as he remains out through illness, though the defender may be back in training next week.

Scotland Women: Crichton believes Pinatar Cup is essential preparation for qualifiers

Scotland Women’s international Leeanne Crichton says that the Pinatar Cup is a chance for players to show off their credentials heading into the Euro 2021 qualifiers next month.

The Spain-based tournament serves as a refresher ahead of Scotland’s return to competitive matches in April, having already secured two wins in qualifying against Cyprus and Albania.

The Scots opened their tournament with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Ukraine on Wednesday and can retain their top spot in the group with victory over Northern Ireland tomorrow.

Speaking exclusively to EN4 News, Crichton said that it will be a chance for other players to stake a claim in the team.

“It is a chance to show what you can do over the nine days where you’ve got three games and the four or five training sessions,” she said.

“There are players that are the main part of this squad who are missing, so there won’t be many chances like this where you can actually get in the team. This is a really big opportunity for everyone to show what they can do and basically stake a claim in the camps that are coming up.”

Scotland boss Shelley Kerr handed a number of Scotland debuts in Murcia, including Martha Thomas, who opened the scoring against the Ukrainians.

Despite the new system and players, coupled with a lack of preparation time, Crichton was impressed with how her teammates have adjusted.

“It’s hard to gauge in terms of the performance because there have been so many changes in the team,” she admitted.

“It was pretty much a new backline, a new midfield and we changed the formation. We literally arrived on Monday, trained Tuesday and played the game on Wednesday, so there hasn’t been much prep time.

“I think that everybody did really well, and the clean sheet is always a bonus as well.

“It is absolutely about winning, but performances will be a big [aspect]. Individually, I think players will be focusing on their own performances. It’s just about keeping that continuity within the squad and looking to build that confidence. I think that is what we need heading into these big matches that we’re going to have in April and June.”

A win in the tournament would serve as Scotland’s perfect warm-up before a return to competitive action next month, with matches against Cyprus and Portugal to come.

Diamond Daniel and trophy droughts: Sport Quiz of the week!

This week’s sport quiz looks at Hearts’ derby drubbing of Hibs, Ronaldinho’s brush with the police and the Six Nations. Try your sporting knowledge below!

 

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.

 

Hearts claim derby spoils, Rangers left red-faced: Scottish Premiership Podcast

Kris Gourlay is joined by Darren McConachie and Adam Mackintosh to discuss this week’s Scottish football action with the Edinburgh derby to dissect as well as the Rangers and Celtic games.

This edition is especially tear-filled as it will be the final EN4 News Sports Podcast of the season. A special thanks to Darren, Fergus Robb, Aaron Purewal, Andrew McDonald, Heather Miller, Adam Mackintosh and Gregor Kerr for joining me on the sofa this semester!

 

 

 

Cup replay between Hearts and Rangers could postpone Tuesday’s Edinburgh derby

Tuesday night’s Edinburgh Derby at Easter Road could be postponed should Hearts’ Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers tomorrow go to a replay.

The Scottish FA has announced that a draw at Tynecastle will result in the teams facing again on Wednesday, March 4 at Ibrox.

With Rangers playing their Europa League round of 16 tie against Bayer Leverkusen over the following two weeks and the Scottish Cup semi-finals on the weekend of April 11, next week remains the only free slot to contest a replay.

Hearts are also facing the prospect of a fixture pile-up after their crucial game away to St Mirren was postponed last week due to heavy rain.

The relegation strugglers host Rangers in Gorgie tomorrow after upsetting Steven Gerrard’s side with a 2-1 victory in January, which remains manager Daniel Stendel’s only league win with the Jambos.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Stendel said he hopes his team can take inspiration from that January performance.

“Rangers will be more focused for this game,” Stendel said. “The cup is always a good chance for everybody to win a title, especially after the first game.

“For us it is important that we know we can win. If we play at Tynecastle then we have the support that we need against Rangers. In our situation, every game is important.

“The difference is that this is a cup game and doesn’t change anything in the league, but it can give us a positive lift for the next couple of games, especially on Tuesday night. We need better results.”

Stendel claimed that he saw a big lift after beating Rangers, however he regretted his side’s failure to capitalise on that as they only won one of their next five games – a 1-0 victory over League One Falkirk in the previous round of the cup.

This quarter-final tie gives Hearts a chance to switch their focus from Premiership duty, where they find themselves two points adrift at the foot of the table.

The St Mirren postponement has resulted in the Jambos having an extra week to prepare for tomorrow’s game, but it may have been an unwelcome break as Stendel admitted time is running out for them to turn the tide.

“All that we do in training is good. The motivation is good. The only thing that doesn’t change is the results,” he said.

“We can look to other games and other teams, but the only team that we can change is us.”

“I said to the players, ‘we cannot score three goals every week’. The other team doesn’t get a lot of chances, but every chance is a goal. Every week it costs us points. We want one goal to be enough to win a game.”

The German will be boosted by the return of striker Liam Boyce, who struck the winning goal on his debut when the teams met in January, however he is still awaiting the return of defender Toby Sibbick after illness.

Hibernian manager Ross praises owner’s ambitious plans ahead of ‘exciting’ time for the club

Manager Jack Ross says it is an “exciting” time for Hibernian after owner Ron Gordon unveiled an ambitious five-year strategic plan for the club this week.

Speaking at the club’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, Gordon said he wished to double spending on players by 2023 and for Hibs to firmly establish themselves as a top-four side in Scotland.

“I’d heard Ron’s presentation prior to last night and it was part of the attraction for me coming to the club in the first place,” said Ross, who took over from former boss Paul Heckingbottom in November.

“When I met him initially, I had a feel for what he wanted to try and achieve for the club. I don’t view my position as being able to spend lots of money; it’s about trying to be part of a club that progress and becomes better.

“But, naturally, if we find ourselves in a position further down the line where we’re able to recruit even higher quality players in one or two positions then there’s an obvious benefit to do that, but you have to use the resources in the right way as well.

“His ambition and his plans for the club are exciting for everybody involved – those who follow the club and those who come to work with it.”

Gordon also outlined his vision for Hibs to consistently challenge in Scotland’s two domestic cup competitions, as well as securing regular qualification for European competitions.

The capital club face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals tonight at Easter Road, while their push for a Europa League spot will continue with Tuesday night’s Edinburgh Derby at home to Hearts.

Ross insisted that his team’s focus is solely on tonight’s match against Championship side Inverness, and said that Hibs will be targeting further glory in the Scottish Cup following the club’s famous triumph in 2016.

“The fixture on Tuesday has no relevance to us at the moment,” Ross said.

“Our preparation this week has been all about this game on Friday. We spoke immediately after the game on Saturday [against Livingston] about the significance of this game and the prize at stake for us if we win it, and the potential prize if we keep winning games in the tournament.

“We set out from the first match we played in the tournament against Dundee United to try and win the competition.

“It’s a realistic aim for us and so far we have navigated ourselves well through the tournament, and hopefully we can continue that on Friday.”

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