AS IF the brutal game against Samoa was not enough, Scotland now face the task of taking on one of the pre-tournament favourites in the latest round of the Women's Rugby World Cup in Spain. In the men's game, Canada may have yet to break into the elite, but their women have been one of the world's top teams since they started.
"There is no doubt they are favourites and we are the underdogs," Peter Brownlee, the Scotland coach, said last night. "But that often suits Scottish teams, it seems to work with our sort of personality. We've watched a video of their opening match, digested it and churned our way through it and I believe that if we can pressure them in the right places, we can stop them playing and do the job." It is a big task. Canada hammered Ireland 57-0 in that opening match.
In the Six Nations tournament just finished, Scotland beat the same opponents 13-0. They were never in danger of losing but struggled to convert pressure into points.
But before everybody heads off into a state of doom and gloom, there are some factors on Scotland's side. They have not played Canada at this level, but did take on the United States last November and won 22-3. Since the Americans and Canadians are traditional rivals with nothing to choose between them, that gives Scotland a benchmark that shows they are capable of springing a surprise.
"I'm not so worried the result, more about the performance," Brownlee said. "If we can get that right, we will be competitive with anybody. It is all about us and the way we play. It will be a much harder task than our opening game. Samoa were an unknown quantity and inexperienced at this level. Canada are a different proposition altogether, they have been around for ages, have loads of experience and quality."
Brownlee has made three changes to the starting line-up. Ironically, Ali McGrandles, the first Scot to be sent off in a full international, comes into the team to replace Denise Fairbairn, who became the second on Monday and is banned for this match.
On the wing, Angela Hutt is injured and Brownlee uses the opportunity to freshen up the back three, bringing in Rhona Shepherd on one wing and Gill Gilmour on the other. Jennifer Dickson drops to the bench with Mary-Pat Tierney coming into squad.
SCOTLAND: S Higgins (Royal High); G Gibbon (Royal High), N MacDonald (Glasgow Southern), R Petlevannaia (Murrayfield Wanderers), R Shepherd (Murrayfield Wanderers); A McGrandles (Richmond), P Chalmers (Murrayfield Wanderers); K Findlay (Richmond), V Wiseman (Richmond), A Christie (Royal High), L Cockburn (Royal High), C Muir (Murrayfield Wanderers), J Sheerin (Richmond), D Kennedy (Royal High), F Gillanders (Wasps).
Replacements: A Mackenzie (Royal High), V Galbraith (Richmond), J Hanley (Waterloo), L O'Keefe (Richmond), B Macleod (Murrayfield Wanderers), M-P Tierney (Watsonians), J Dickson (Richmond).
The Times (London, England) (May 18, 2002): p32