Easson hoping Thistles pathway can help Scotland settle

Bryan Easson is hoping the new Thistles pathway will help Scotland against England.
Bryan Easson is hoping the new Thistles pathway will help Scotland against England. (Inpho)

By Tom Masters

Bryan Easson is hoping Scotland’s new Thistles side will help their inexperienced back line to get up to speed quickly ahead of their TikTok Women’s Six Nations clash with England.

A mixture of injuries and strong performances from some of the up-and-coming Scottish talent has meant there are just 11 caps between both centres and wingers against an England side eager to start well following their heart-breaking World Cup final defeat.

Meryl Smith and Emma Orr form the centre pairing with ten caps between them, while right winger Coreen Grant has one cap and left winger Francesca McGhie will make her debut.

Ahead of a challenge with world number one side England, Easson is excited for his new look backline to get going and believes the performances of the Thistles in the inaugural Celtic Challenge will stand them in good stead.

He said: “I have been really impressed with the Thistles, there has been a real push to bridge that gap between club and international level.

“Clearly for us to see Meryl (Smith), Emma Orr and Fran McGhie perform in that, that is something we have then to take into this.

“I travelled with them to Belfast, just to see how they get on with flying, hotel and pre-match build-up.

“That Thistles programme for us just allows players to come in and, if we had not had that, Fran would have come from Watsonians straight into this programme.

“She would never have experienced what it is like for it to be a match week and she would never have experienced being in a hotel with the team and the media, so that Thistles programme has been undoubtedly a real pick-up for Scotland Women’s rugby.

“What better way to make your debut than against England with a full crowd?

“I think they have trained well, but now there will be that little bit of pressure in front of a big crowd playing international rugby.”

Six Nations Rugby, the official organising body responsible for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, broke all fan engagement records in 2022 and highlighted its commitment to giving the women’s game the best possible platform to grow.

The 2023 edition of the Championship stands to build on this progress, with even bigger crowds expected, more international broadcasters covering all the action and unprecedented social and digital promotion for the heroes of the women’s game.

McGhie has been particularly impressive with the Thistles and Easson is excited by her addition to the side.

“She’s fearless and there is a lot of excitement with her, she is a winger who has real pace and scored five tries with the Thistles,” he continued.

“I thought she was outstanding in those games, she is really dangerous on an edge, give her a little bit of space, I think she will show what she is all about.

“She is only 19 years old as well, she does not know much in terms of the game, which I think brings a lot of excitement at the potential.”

Scotland lost all five matches of the Championship a year ago, before going on to lose three in a row at the World Cup in New Zealand, but the majority of those defeats have been tight.

Easson has set a very clear target for his side this time around – consistency, which he hopes can start this weekend.

“It is all about performance,” he added.

“We want a consistent performance, we have played England in the past and played well for maybe a 20-minute period, a 25-minute period, then we have dropped off.

“For me, it is having that consistent 80-minute performance, we will be under pressure at times, whether that be the set-piece or the amount of time we have the ball, we know there will be times when we are under pressure because we are playing the best team in the world.

“Success as well is just seeing how those youngsters bed in. We have two 19-year-olds and a 21-year-old in the back division - it is exciting that come 2025, these girls will have a lot of caps under their belts.

“We have lost our last nine games, but six of those nine we have lost by a score - so now we want to turn those narrow defeats into one or two-point victories, instead of one score losses.”

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