SCOTLAND head coach Bryan Easson says his team will not suffer from a collective inferiority complex when they kick off their Six Nations campaign against England tomorrow afternoon in Doncaster.

In 22 games played between the two nations this century, England have a 100 percent success rate with an average winning margin of 45 points per match, and the odds appear to be stacked against Scotland turning things around any time soon.

England have a much bigger player pool to draw from and their international programme is fully professional, while Scotland currently have seven players on academy-style contracts. Add in the fact that the Allianz Premier 15s league has run a full schedule in England this season (albeit playing adapted rules to try to minimise the risk of Covid), while there has been no domestic rugby in Scotland since last March, and you can’t help wondering whether this is going to be a fair fight – but that’s not the sort of mentality Easson has any time for.

“Yeah, it is a fair fight,” he insisted. “Any game you play in is a fair fight, you have got to challenge yourselves. We have trained more than we ever have because of the situation we have been put in with Covid, so for me it is 15 versus 15 on Saturday. They have been playing week-in and week-out in the Premiership, but we have been having hit-outs every Saturday too.

“This weekend is a different ask for all teams in the Six Nations, nobody has played international rugby for a long time, so it is not about professionalism, it is about how you prepare for the weekend.

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“Our hit-outs have been hugely intense. We’ve gone 10-minute blocks, 15-minute blocks, 20-minute blocks and so on, and from our GPS and from our data, some of these blocks have been of a higher intensity than some of the internationals we have played previously.”

Easson has made three changes – all in the pack – to the side which secured an excellent draw against France when women’s international rugby briefly came out of lockdown in October, with Christine Belisle starting at tight-head prop, Louise McMillan being deployed in the second-row and Siobhan Cattigan filling the boots of the talismanic Jade Konkel – who is currently unavailable whilst completing here fire-fighter training in London – at No8.

“Siobhan’s always pushed Jade really hard for a starting position anyway,” said Easson. “She brings something different. She maybe won’t carry as much as Jade but she is very good in contact situations and also has good skills so we’re looking forward to seeing how she gets on."

 

Scotland (v England at Castle Park in Doncaster, on Saturday @ 3pm): C Rollie; R Shankland, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, M McDonald; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, L McMillan, R Malcolm©, R McLachlan, S CattiganReplacements: M Wright, P Muzambe, L Cockburn, E Gallagher, J Rettie, J Maxwell, S Law, L Musgrove.