Sunday, 24 April 1994

World cup: Scotland v Canada

Debbie Francis

BEFORE the game we talked through our objectives and one of the questions the coaches asked was: ``What would we not be happy with today?'' We said we did not want a narrow win; that we wanted to play exciting rugby. Throughout the game, then, we tried to run and run when perhaps others would have played safe. I think we achieved what we set out to do, defeating Canada by 11 points to five.

We dominated the first 10 minutes by sticking to our game plan, but even though the Canadians came back strongly in the second and third quarters we weren't worried. In all the games in the tournament we have finished very strongly. We knew that if we stuck at it the same thing would happen.

This tournament has given the Scottish women's team their first chance to put in a lot of work together and we've improved enormously in the last fortnight. Our forwards, in particular, have surpassed themselves. The Canadians thought we might be fragile in that area but our pack was magnificent, especially as Canada tried to attack round the fringes so often.

I suppose the fact that the referee could only award lineouts and not scrums after we had lost our two props both world-class players should have counted against us. But the scrums had been pretty even up to that point, and our lineout jumpers responded superbly when the challenge was put to them. Jenny Sheerin's try at the end came direct from a lineout and I don't think even we would have expected that.

The Canadians seemed to underestimate the very areas of our game where we performed best.

It almost counted against them at one stage because the Canadian No6 broke off from a scrum on the line and we would have scored a pushover try had that scrum not collapsed. We knew they would fear the tackling of Pogo Paterson and Kim Littlejohn, our centres, and as they had a kicking stand-off I think we knew how they would play it.

Women's rugby as a whole tends to have a very low profile and it has been particularly low in Scotland in the past. I think this fortnight will have opened many people's eyes in Scotland. Before, during and for a little while after the tournament the attention that is paid is enormous and I just hope it can carry on from there.

Because it is such a new sport here the response has been surprising. The crowds have played an invaluable part, not least in the big matches against England and Canada. They provided a major boost to our game.

The hope now is that sponsors will realise just how popular the game now is and will become in the future. We've had good support so far but more of the same will be needed to take us up to the next level.

The crowd had to be intense, because at this stage of the tournament we were all very, very tired. As a new squad we don't have real strength in depth and the girls who have taken part have had to play their hearts out. They were an inspiration. It made a huge psychological difference.

We changed the tactics slightly for this game. We knew that they would play close to the gain line to harass our midfield, so knowing that they also doubted the strength in our pack, we concentrated on the secondary drive by the forwards and on chipping over their defence.

If Canada had any doubts about our place kicking then Elaine Black's two penalties were a fine response.

Two weeks of intensive coaching have worked wonders for us. Our forwards' lines of running have improved immensely the kind of stuff that they simply did not know a month ago.

In the championship final at Raeburn Place I think we will see two very different styles of rugby. The Americans will want to run everything as they have magnificent support players among their backs. But the English forwards should match the Americans technically, and if they can win clean ball and their backs are adventurous then it will be a very exciting game.

However, if England play boring, safe rugby, I'd like to see the fast-handling Americans win.

Our concern against Canada was to play a good game of rugby; we would have been disappointed if, in winning, we had been dull to watch.

We have had a truly magnificent tournament. We've played the kind of rugby that people want to see. We've certainly played the game we've wanted to play. I hope that the final is just as good an advert.

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1994

Source Citation
"Change of tactics brings a happy ending for Scotland; Women's Rugby." Sunday Times [London, England] 24 Apr. 1994

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