Scottish Daily Mail

McMillan vows to show benefit of pro deal in England test


SCOTLAND know they are not the favourites going into this afternoon’s Women’s Six Nations opener with England. An aggregate score of 285-23 in the hosts’ favour since 2018 leaves little room for doubt.

Indeed, England come into this sold-out game at Kingston Park after a World Cup final defeat to New Zealand in Auckland in November, which brought to an end a remarkable run of 30 Test victories on the spin — a world record.

Scotland, on the other hand, have lost nine Tests in a row since defeating Colombia early last year and are tenth in the world. And yet, things are slowly changing...

England have had profession­al players for years and obviously have a large pool of talent to choose from that is playing in the Allianz Premier 15s, one of the top club leagues around.

Since December, there have been 28 players profession­ally contracted by Scottish Rugby and, with 24 of them playing in the Premier 15s down south, they are now rubbing shoulders with the England players week in and week out.

It may take time, but it will make a difference.

‘I think back to even the Six Nations last season when girls couldn’t get a day off sometimes between matches because they were working,’ said second-row Louise McMillan, who until recently juggled her club rugby in Glasgow with Scotland commitment­s and a career in law.

‘So, it is really exciting that we now have a squad that feels like it is on the same level as other teams.’

The 25-year-old, one of the 19 of the 28 contracted Scottish players who will be involved in this game, continued: ‘Being profession­al has completely changed this squad.

‘Yeah, completely (we can go toe-to-toe with England). I think this is a great opportunit­y for us and we are all really excited to play.

‘We really want to prove to everyone how much these contracts are making a difference and show that the more support that is put into us the better we will play. That is something the team is really passionate about, putting down a marker and building from here.

‘England are one of the best teams in the world, there is no getting away from it. This is my seventh Six Nations and I certainly know what sort of mammoth challenge we will be up against.

‘But we want to come from a point of difference this season and know that if we all execute our roles then we can put the performanc­e out there that we want to.’

McMillan is now based down south playing for Saracens and that, coupled with her Scottish Rugby contract, has really allowed her to focus on rugby and take her game to the next level.

With regular second-rowers Emma Wassell and Sarah Bonar injured, Scotland need a big game from Lyndsay O’Donnell and McMillan in that area.

Ahead of her 40th cap, the latter said: ‘Being at Saracens and calling the lineout has given me a lot of confidence. This game is an opportunit­y for me to step up.’

SCOTLAND: Chloe Rollie; Coreen Grant, Emma Orr, Meryl Smith, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Lyndsay O’Donnell, Louise McMillan, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Jodie Rettie, Anne Young, Elliann Clarke, Eva Donaldson, Eilidh Sinclair, Mairi McDonald, Beth Blacklock, Liz Musgrove.

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