Welcome to our Match Guide to today’s [Saturday] Autumn Test match between Scotland and Spain at Hive Stadium, kick-off 5.45pm. Here, you’ll find exclusive content from camp, as well as the team news and stats for this one-off fixture.
What you'll find & where
Setting The Scene
This afternoon’s match, the first of a new season for Scotland, serves as part of the preamble to WXV, the new global competition for international Women’s rugby.
Scotland will be competing in the WXV2, alongside league hosts South Africa, United States and Japan (all of whom Scotland will face) with Samoa, Italy and Japan also competing. Whilst there is no promotion or relegation in the first iteration of WXV1 and WXV2, the competition’s importance is highlighted by the fact that Rugby World Cup 2025 qualification can be ultimately obtained through WXV performance.
Scotland of course qualified for the last iteration, Rugby World Cup 2021, and their path to that tournament will love long in the memory. Pictured below, after beating Ireland in the most dramatic of circumstances, Scotland went on to defeat Colombia and reach a first Rugby World Cup in 12 years.
Thoughts from the Head Coach
As he announced the squad to face Spain, head coach Bryan Easson said: “It’s great to have the Spain fixture as when you go into any tournament it’s important you have an opportunity to pit yourself against different opposition with different playing styles.
“We know that when we go to Cape Town for WXV, we will be playing against South Africa and USA in the first two weeks who are both physical sides, but we are also playing against Japan who play more open-style, faster rugby and Spain fall into some of those categories.
“In terms of the selection, we’ve looked at a few permutations and some players who are coming back from injury who need game time so there is a really good mix of experience and youth in the squad for this weekend.”
Interview: Rhona back in the Scotland groove
Having helped secure a Team GB Olympic berth for next year’s Games in Paris, Rhona Lloyd’s impact on the international 7s scene meant she missed out on the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
It means she’ll hopefully have a big part to play in Paris next year, but coming back to represent Scotland ahead of this weekend’s game against Spain and the WXV campaign to follow is of equal importance to the 41-times capped winger.
As the 26-year-old explained what it means to her to don the Thistle: “This last year, I haven’t been with Scotland at all and I’ve really missed being around it. All of my best friends are here, this team has been such a big part of my life and when the calendars came out for this season, for Scotland and the 7s, knowing it aligned made me so grateful.”
Rhona may have not enjoyed a playing brief during Scotland’s 2023 to date, but her desire to support her teammates saw her turn out as a supporter for some big occasions: “Oh yeah, I was number one fan! Lisa Thomson’s 50th cap in France – I got my first cap with her – that was important to be there for that, then Nelly’s [Helen Nelson] 50th as well here. I was with all the parents and obviously I was a fan, but a fan with a lot of investment in the game!
“It was cracking me up, being next to the parents and hearing what they say to each other during a game. It was tough to not be on the pitch but I made the most of being in the fan club.”
It means a whole lot to Rhona, being Scottish. Wherever she is and whomever she is competing for, it’s important that she demonstrates as much: “Being Scottish is my favourite hobby, definitely. With the 7s it was very important to me to have young girls in Scotland being able to see Scottish players on the world stage.
“I didn’t grow up seeing girls play at a World Cup, I watched the 2016 Olympics without a single Scottish player in the team, so if you ask my 7s teammates they’ll tell you about all the Scottish music we listen to just about everywhere we go. I’m learning to play the bagpipes as well – it’s almost like since taking that step away briefly, it’s made me appreciate how lucky we are in this country to have the culture that we do and all the traditions.
“I’m very passionate about young girls seeing Scottish women competing on the biggest stage. Having this break has made me appreciate just how important this team is to me and I’m buzzing to get the opportunity again.”
Getting to Know: New coach Banahan settling into role
“Even when I played, my excitement came from seeing other people excel, and that’s the same as a coach.”
It’s a mantra that Matt Banahan is keen to carry on in his coaching career, having joined Scotland Women in an attacking role last month.
“It’s about seeing other people express themselves and play to the best of their ability. When they win, they’re happy and I am someone who can hopefully help along the way.”
As so many do on the back of Rugby World Cup 2021 qualification and some excellent performances in the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations, Matt sees a whole load of potential within the ranks of Bryan Easson’s squad as they prepare to embark on an inaugural WXV campaign after facing Spain this weekend.
He explained: “The route of attack is the quickest way to space. If it’s a kick-pass, running it, is it a tip at the line. We’re trying to move the ball into space and create multiple options. We don’t want to be a team who run one way the whole time; we want to be a team where people struggle to defend against us. The players have taken to that very well in the short time we’ve had and we’re building bricks.”
“They’re a brilliant team, it’s about layering some more detail from my own playing career of what I can do to help us get to the next level.
“The team have been fantastic, welcoming me into their environment and getting to know them all, both players and coaches, so it’s exciting times ahead and I’m really looking forward to the role.”
It all starts for Matt’s own Scotland journey with the visit of Spain, an occasion he says is exciting for him as well: “You want to win a Test match and start the ball rolling into WXV and that’s our main focus, to go there and perform well. This is another stepping stone on that journey, and it’s going to be great fun to come to the Hive, putting in a performance to win the game.”
A first taste of Scotland action awaits for Matt, whose efforts will be concentrated on ensuring that the momentum created over the course of the past couple of seasons is maintained and built upon for the challenges ahead.
90 Days - A World Cup like no other
Calling All Women’s Rugby Fans – The Old Girls Need You!
Did you know Scotland’s first women rugby players organised a Rugby World Cup with only 90 days’ notice? In 1994, the Scottish rugby community who stepped in and saved the day – ensuring the game continued to grow all over the world.
Next April, on the 30th anniversary, some of the original players are fundraising to tell the story in the form of a show. The plan is to premiere the show on the day the current Scotland team play England at Hive Stadium in the 2024 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
What a great day out that will be – especially if the Hive is a sell out! If you’d like to see this happen, please make a donation on their Crowdfunding page here.
All who make a donations will be first to hear when tickets to the show become available. Who won the World Cup in 1994? Take a look at the 90 Days website to find out..