WHEN assessing Scotland’s performance and result against England in Doncaster on Saturday, it is important to keep in mind that a like for like comparison between the two teams is impossible.  

England are a professional outfit filled with players who have had regular game time in the Aviva Premier 15s league this season, while Scotland are essentially amateur and the 16 homebased players in the squad have had no domestic rugby during the last 12 months. 

The away side were absolutely right to talk up their chances of securing a shock win pre-match – they could hardly say it was a doomed mission – but we all knew that the real target was keeping the score respectable. 

So, we shouldn’t be too incredulous about hooker Lana Skeldon’s startlingly optimistic take on her team’s 52-10 loss, which was – after all – a marked improvement on the 53-0 and 80-0 defeats suffered in 2020 and 2019 respectively. 

“We are feeling pretty good after that,” she insisted. “The first half was obviously difficult, but we came out in the second half and showed what we are all about, showed some fight. 

“There were some really good bits in there to take into the next game [against Italy on 17thApril] so we are actually feeling fairly positive going forward. 

“We are really happy with a number of things that went on from a set-piece point of view, so it won’t happen overnight, but I think going into the Italy game we will be feeling confident and ready to go having got the rustiness out of our system after not playing for quite a while,” she added. 

Scotland were 33-3 down at half-time and with the influential Lisa Thomson in the sinbin they were staring down the barrel at the sort of defeat which would have been impossible to put a positive gloss on, however they battled back bravely and were rewarded for a long period of pressure inside their opponents’ 22 when Hannah Smith nipped over for a try. 

England appeared rattled and were giving away penalties as if they were going out of fashion. At one point the hosts were reduced to 13 players, with Poppy Cleall and Lark Davies both in the sinbin, but then Scotland suffered a killer blow with the red carding of replacement Molly Wright for a high tackle. It was a tough call, but the correct punishment by the letter of the law.  

England took advantage to score two late tries which sealed the victory. 

“This Six Nations is all about Scotland and how we are going to play, obviously we do look at the other teams, but for us it is about putting consistent performances in and taking steps forward,” concluded Skeldon. “So, we will look at Italy, but the main focus will be ourselves and the areas that we can improve on.”