Scotland Women U18: Six Nations Festival 2024 recap and preview

Scotland Women U18: Six Nations Festival 2024 recap and preview

Last week Scotland Women U18 began their campaign in this year’s Six Nations Festival in Colwyn Bay, with players from the Women’s pathway given a valuable chance to engage in competitive play, fostering growth and skill development against brand-new opposition.

Poppy Mellanby and Talei Tawake spoke to Scottish Rugby about their experiences so far and look ahead to their final Round where they’re face Ireland.

“It’s been really enjoyable to face new competition, it’s unmatched to anything we have experienced before”, said Poppy.

“Getting to try out some new things against a different opposition has been great, especially the French side. It’s been challenging but really cool.”

In Round one, Scotland came up against a strong French side and were defeated 34-0 and put on a hearty display against Wales, missing out 0-12. In those losses, have come big learnings, which both Poppy and Talei believe they have been able to apply in their second Round of games.

“We have learned a lot in our last few games, especially around ball retention”, said Poppy.

“We might not have executed everything to how we wanted but it’s been huge for our learning, and we’ve definitely improved as we have gone.”

Talei added: “It felt so good to get our tries in Round two. There was definitely a difference from those first games to our second two, I feel we improved a lot, especially our communication and that helped us to execute those two tries.”

Scotland’s two tries were scored against England and Italy through Louise Taperell and Hannah Smyth, who both showed great pace and power to cross the whitewash on Tuesday afternoon.

Talei, who plays for Watsonians FC and has a background playing netball, has showcased great strength in her physicality as a back-row forward, which has been a personal focus during her time in Wales, she said: “I’ve definitely been focusing on my physicality and hopefully that has shown through my carrying and breaking through the line. I find the same with netball, it’s given me knowledge on when’s the right time to pass the ball and it is a physical sport, so I think that helps being a forward.”

Poppy, who plays at stand-off has also credited her background in football and athletics for her fanciful footwork which she’s displayed throughout the festival.

“It’s felt really cool to have been able to evade the defence and work on myself as a 10 with ball in hand, it’s been really enjoyable”, said Poppy.

“When it comes to playing other sports, there are so many transferable skills. Football is all about putting the ball into space and I think for my position that’s really important. My background in athletics has really helped with my endurance too.”

Left to right: Poppy in action against France and Talei in action against England.

The two players are excited to take their experience back to their local clubs too.

“The intensity we have experienced here has been great and I think being able to take that back to our club environments is a really positive thing, and the physicality too. I think being able to take that back to my club at Biggar is exciting”, said Poppy.

Looking ahead to Ireland, the Scotland U18 side will now play in a 70-minute fixture. There previous four games have been 35-minutes long to give the teams more experience playing different oppositions as opposed to longer games against fewer sides.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Talei said: “We just want to focus on the intensity and our ball retention. We’ve maybe had a bit of a slow start in our other games and then grown into it, so we need to go out firing.

“I think it’s good that we will have 70 minutes for this game rather than 35 like the others because we’ve always felt like we have more to give.”

Poppy added: “I think we can be gracious in defeat. We played really well in the previous rounds but we didn’t necessarily get the result we wanted and that’s what we hope to turn around against Ireland. We don’t want to have the mindset of playing well but losing, we want to play well and win the game.”

Women’s pathway

The U18 side is just one part of the picture for the pathway of Women’s rugby in Scotland.

Earlier this week, an U16 side was named ahead of a festival taking place in Galashiels, where they will face sides from North Wales and the Netherlands. The 46 players chosen for the programme were also identified through the Girls Regional Game Series.

Later this summer, a Scotland Futures side will be selected. This programme aims to support players over 18, across the country with the potential to play for Scotland.

Robbie Lavery, Scottish Rugby’s Performance Pathways Manager Girls & Womens Rugby, takes time to reflect on the developments within the Women’s pathway over the last 12 months, saying: “We’ve seen great advancements within our pathway, yielding tangible results in the calibre of emerging players.

“The progression of talents like Holland Bogan, Eilidh Fleming, Karis Craig, Rebekah Douglas, and Nicole Flynn from the U18 squad to competing in the Celtic Challenge for both Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby has been a fantastic result for us.

“Alongside Nicole, Scotland Futures players Alex Stewart and Cieron Bell have also been selected for the Guinness Six Nations squad, with Alex making her debut against Wales, which was richly deserved.

“As our pathway continues to expand and refine, we anticipate more players transitioning from U16 to U18 and beyond. Exciting times lie ahead for us.”


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