SCOTLAND'S women rugby players stick to the tried and tested as they head into the unknown in the opening round of the Women's Rugby World Cup today. They may be fifth seeds and European champions but the pressure is on from the start.
The problem, as Barbara Wilson, the Scottish women's rugby administrator, admits is that all they know about Samoa, their opening opponents is that 23 of the 26 in the squad are based in New Zealand and that they are huge. "I saw that there is only one of their team who weighs less than 75kg (just under 12st) but there's only about half our squad who reach that," she says. "But the girls are prepared for a strong match and are geared up to give them a game. It is not always the biggest that wins these things."
While Samoa may have size and weight, Scotland have teamwork and confidence. Their opponents are a scratch side pulled together after the Black Ferns had had their pick of the leading players in New Zealand and have little experience of playing with each other or at this level.
And Scotland are heading for the World Cup with something to prove. While England have been getting most of the kudos and far more financial support -Scotland won the European title despite having had their lottery backing withdrawn and now that it is back, it is at a level that pales into insignificance compared with the money allocated to their English rivals -the Scots have been putting together some solid performances and head for Barcelona ranked only two below England.
In the Six Nations just ended, Scotland finished third, comfortably beaten by England but frustrated and angry with themselves for losing to France who went on to claim a grand slam. "We were all over them but could not score," Karen Findlay, the captain, said. "It was incredibly frustrating, we know we should have won that game."
Women's rugby is growing in Scotland but a big performance from the national side would be a huge boost, raising its profile to the stage where sponsors, a strong public following and a decent slice of financial support would inevitably follow. Failure would set the project back years, which is why today's game is vital for women's rugby in Scotland.
The Times (London, England) (May 13, 2002): p29