LISA Thomson will captain Scotland for the first time today in the Test against Italy in Calvisano. Thomson succeeds Lisa Martin, but head coach Shade Munro has yet to say who will lead the team for the forthcoming friendlies against Canada and Spain or for the Six Nations Championship.
“We are fortunate to have the options in our team for the captaincy role,” he said after naming his team. “We want to be able to develop a group of leaders and to offer more of our players leadership positions. Lisa [Thomson] came into the team at a very young age and has developed into one of these leaders. She is very knowledgeable about the game and this is the next step in her leadership journey.
“I am excited about this match and the upcoming Tests. It’s great to be challenged at this level at this stage in the season. It’s a huge opportunity for our players to be able to cement their position in the team, which is really important ahead of the Six Nations and World Cup qualifiers.”
Loosehead prop Lisa Cockburn is the only new cap in the starting 15 as the Scots seek revenge for their 26-12 Six Nations defeat in Padua back in March. Rachel McLachlan, Bryony Nelson, Annabel Sergeant and Lucy Winter could all make their debuts off the bench.
Still just 21, believes her year playing for Lille alongside national team-mates Chloe Rollie and Jade Konkel helped the rapid development of her leadership skills.
“Going to France and playing rugby was a great experience,” she said. “Completely being out my comfort zone on and off the pitch with the language barrier and everything else definitely made me a more robust player in terms of getting and giving feedback and stuff like that. It’s definitely helped in terms of captaincy and leadership.”
Thomson made her debut as a teenager two years ago, quickly becoming a key member of the team thanks to her dynamic ball-carrying in midfield. Many players of her age might be daunted by the responsibility of office, but she also feels a period as skipper of the Scotland Sevens squad has prepared her well.
“I captained the sevens team a couple of years ago in Hungary and in the Czech Republic when we got promotion to the Grand Prix. It won’t affect my game – it’s just a couple of off-field jobs that need doing; it doesn’t affect your game at all.
“Until I was captain for the sevens I hadn’t really envisaged me being captain for the Scotland 15s squad, but as soon I’d captained I’d love to do it. It came earlier than expected, like everything does in sport, but it’s just a great honour to captain your country.
“Shade phoned me up the week before we went into camp against Ireland. I was actually doing a university project – I was watching a basketball game. And we had a players’ meeting scheduled for that Thursday. He just phoned me and we were chatting about that, then he just said ‘So, how do you feel about captaining the squad?’ I was just quiet for a couple of minutes, then I said ‘Yeah, of course, I’d love to do that’.
“I waited about a week after Shade told me [to tell her family] because I was going home for a weekend to see them. I told my mum, dad, granny, grandad all at the same time, and they’re just so proud. Really happy for me.”
Although she only made her debut in 2016, Thomson has been in the squad long enough to see sustained and sizeable development under Munro. She believes that, with senior players such as Konkel still out injured, the strength of the 23 selected for this game is testament to that.
“It’s massive. Three years ago when I came in you would have 25, maybe 30, players. But now you see we’ve got a few injuries and there’s young players coming through. It’s great to see them getting opportunities.
“For example Rachel McLachlan is an under-20s player still, and she’s only been playing for a couple of years. It’s great to see that there is depth in Scottish rugby now and we’re creating these players younger.”
The Italians also have a new captain in full-back Manuela Furlan, who takes over from the long-time skipper, scrum-half Sara Barattin. Italian coach Andrea di Giandomenico has named three uncapped players on the bench.
Scotland (v Italy in Calvisano, kick-off 12.45pm GMT, 1.45pm local, streamed live on Scottish Rugby’s Facebook page): C Rollie (Lille); L Harris (Bristol), L Thomson (Darlington), H Nelson (Montpellier), A Evans (Hillhead/Jordanhill); L Martin (Lille), M Grieve (Firwood Waterloo); L Cockburn (Darlington), L Skeldon (Watsonians), M Kennedy (Stirling County), E Wassell (Heriot’s), N Howat (Edinburgh Univ), S Cattigan (Stirling County), L McMillan (Hillhead/Jordanhill), S Bonar (Loughborough). Substitutes: J Rettie (Saracens), S McMillan (Hillhead/Jordanhill), K Dougan (Gloucester-Hartpury), L Winter (Edinburgh Univ), R McLachlan (West of Scotland), J Maxwell (Loughborough), B Nelson (Watsonians), A Sergeant (Heriot’s).
Scotland fixtures 2018-19 (all times GMT):
Tues 27 November: v Canada (Scotstoun 7pm)
Sun 20 January: v Spain (venue and kick-off time tba)
Six Nations Championship:
Fri 1 February: v Italy (Scotstoun 7.35pm)
Fri 8: v Ireland (Scotstoun 7.35pm)
Sat 23: v France (Lille 8pm)
Fri 8 March: v Wales (Scotstoun 7.35pm)
Sat 16: v England (Twickenham 7.30pm)
Premiership match reports: