Six Nations 2015: Scotland Women are making progress, says Balmer
Worcester prop believes the Dark Blues are capable of improving against England and Ireland despite lengthy winless run
Tracy Balmer insists that Scotland Women are still progressing despite losing their opening three matches of the RBS 6 Nations.
The Scotland Women captain, who plays her club rugby at Worcester, is hoping that the small steps they have taken this season with a relatively inexperienced squad will hold them in good stead with England and Ireland coming up in the Dark Blues’ final two matches.
“We have progressed. That is what we’ve asked of ourselves – to keep progressing each game and we are showing that,” she said.
“The results might not be showing that, but we know our performances are starting to get there.
“At this level small progressions are all you can ask for.”
Scotland head to Darlington to take on world champions England at the Northern Echo Arena on Friday night in a match that will take place immediately after the men’s U20 match and televised on Sky Sports, but Jules Maxton’s side face a huge ask to secure a first win in the championship in over five years.
England have also had problems since winning the Women’s Rugby World Cup last summer, losing head coach Gary Street just weeks before the start of the tournament, with a number of key players also moving on or unavailable for selection.
Ireland and England are very strong teams, but any team can score against them and credit to how well all teams have been working, because this competition is wide open a lot more than it has been.
Scotland Women captain Tracy Balmer on the Six Nations
That upheaval has seen England lose two of their opening three matches to Wales in Swansea and Ireland in Ashbourne, with their only success so far coming against Italy at The Stoop, but England remain one of the teams to beat.
The Red Rose won seven consecutive Six Nations titles – including six Grand Slams – between 2006 and 2012, while Scotland’s best performance in the competition was a fourth-place finish in 2010, but have not won another tournament match since.
Despite the gulf between the two countries, Balmer believes that the gap is narrowing and the Six Nations is more competitive than ever before.
“Our target for England and Ireland is just to keep progressing,” she added.
“We’ve proved we can score a try, so we should be scoring again.
“Ireland and England are very strong teams, but any team can score against them and credit to how well all teams have been working, because this competition is wide open a lot more than it has been.
“If you look four or five seasons ago England were always at the top of the table, but that’s starting to change now. It’s all up for grabs.”
After a poor start against Italy in Cumbernauld saw Scotland concede two tries in the opening 15 minutes last time out, Balmer was at a loss to explain why the familiar pattern in their matches returned after a superb defensive effort saw them hold Wales to just six points in the opening half of their previous outing.
As long as we progress in our game play. If we look back at our last season’s scores against these two teams and we narrow the deficit, and we score more points than we have done that’s a progression.
Tracy Balmer on Scotland’s final two matches
The Italians eventually ran in five tries in a 31-8 win, finding it easy to get around the outside of the Scottish defence, but it wasn’t quite the demoralising defeats they suffered at the hands of France (0-69), England (0-63) and Ireland (59-0) last season.
It wasn’t all one way traffic against Italy with Jules Maxton’s side carving out a number of chances, which failed to yield any points, long before versatile forward Jade Konkel crossed late in the game for just Scotland’s second try in the last three championships.
And Balmer concedes that there is an unfortunate reason why they failed to make the most of the opportunities they had, but a one that can be easily remedied.
“If we’re honest, we’re not used to being in the other team’s 22 that much and that’s something we’re working towards,” she said.
“We’re trying to play more territory and playing in the other half of the pitch.
“The more opportunities we get, the more comfortable we’ll be, and more clinical, so it’s small steps.
“If we look back at our last season’s scores against [England and Ireland] and we narrow the deficit, and we score more points than we have done, that’s a progression.
“So that will be our focus to start with then, depending on the day, we’ll look to progress on that even more.”