WHILE the wheels seem to be coming off the Scotland men’s team ahead of their Six Nations curtain-raiser against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, the mood in the women’s camp is very different.

Having been whitewashed last season, and having only managed five wins in total in the championship going back to 2008, nobody is getting carried away with achieving a Grand Slam – but a busy fixture list and a focused training regime under new head coach Philip Doyle, has created a positivity about things moving slowly but surely in the right direction.

“This season more than ever before the SRU have supported us to have far more matches, including a tour to South Africa and home Tests against Japan and Spain, and I think we’re seeing gradual improvements in the team and individuals because of that,” said Rachel Malcolm, the women’s team captain.

“Philip has a different mentality and ethos than what we’ve had before. The change has been relatively gradual, but the girls have been adaptive to what he’s done since he’s come in. The way we play now is very physical while still trying to play that fast rugby we played before.

“Organisation is a massive thing. As a squad, our understanding has improved massively in terms of the game. Also, the strength in depth is starting to build. Now, when we get an injury it’s not panic stations. We have players who can come in and do a brilliant job.”

The high-water mark for the team was 2017, when they managed an unprecedented two wins in the tournament over Italy and Wales, as well as pushing Ireland all the way before succumbing to a late try. However, such is the gap between the professionalism in France and England, compared to the domestic scene north of the Border, that even in that bumper year Scotland ended up losing to those two nations by an aggregate score of 114-0.

That is an awful lot of ground to make up, but with more Scottish players involved in the English club game, Malcolm is hopeful contests against the two superpowers of European women’s rugby will be more competitive.

“The intensity the league is played at in England means when you come into international camp it’s not such a shock and we can train and play at that level consistently,” said Malcolm, who turns out at hooker for Loughborough Lightning in England’s top flight Tyrrells Premier XVs league.

“We just want to keep pushing on, be more consistent and close the gap with the other teams.”