SCOTLAND coach Bryan Easson has kept faith with the team that beat Spain for today’s World Cup qualifying decider against Ireland, only giving experienced lock Sarah Bonar a place on the bench after she missed last Sunday’s match because of work commitments.

Bonar would normally be a first pick in the second row alongside Emma Wassell, who wins her 50th cap this afternoon and has never missed a match since her debut in 2014.

But the sheer grit and determination shown by the team in their 27-22 win over the Spanish convinced Easson that he had to go with an unchanged line-up for this match, the winner of which will keep alive their dreams of qualifying for next year’s finals in New Zealand. 

“I think the group that secured the victory against Spain last weekend deserved another start for this game,” Easson said.

“The whole squad have been brilliant throughout this campaign and I think it’s important to reward the players who put on a really impressive performance on Sunday. Sarah Bonar, who is a vital part of this squad, also returns to feature on the bench, which is a huge boost for us as she brings a great deal of experience to the team.”

Scotland climbed into the world top ten for the first time since rankings began as a result of the win over Spain, but victory over the Irish will be a far more significant achievement. If they top the group, they will go through to the finals as winners of the European qualifying tournament. If they are runners-up, they will progress to a final global qualifying event.

Hosts Italy play Spain earlier this afternoon, and if they win with a bonus point that means Scotland can at best finish second.

All four teams are currently on five points going into this final round of games, and the head-to-head result is used to separate sides that finish on the same points total. Italy beat Scotland 38-13 on matchday one.

If Spain beat the Italians, Scotland need only match their result to top the group, thanks to that win last week. That would guarantee them a place at the finals for the first time since 2010.

“This is absolutely the biggest game in [our] recent history,” Easson added.

“What we can do for the women’s game, what we can do for Scottish rugby, is huge. But we have to concentrate on this game and not look too far beyond that.”

Scotland (v Ireland at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, today, 5pm BST): C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, J Maxwell; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, L McMillan, R McLachlan, R Malcolm (captain),  J Konkel. Substitutes: M Wright, L Cockburn, K  Dougan, S Bonar, E Gallagher, M McDonald, S Law, A Evans.

Ireland: E Considine; A Murphy Crowe, E Higgins, S Naoupu, B Parsons; S Flood, K Dane; L Feely, C Moloney, L Djougang, N Fryday, S Monaghan, D Wall, E McMahon, C Griffin (captain). Substitutes: N Jones, L Peat, L Lyons, B Hogan, C Molloy, E Lane, L Mulhall, L Delany.