Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm insisted the team can still be proud of their Six Nations campaign despite failing to secure qualification for the Rugby World Cup.

Defeat to Ireland in Belfast saw Scotland miss out on a third-place finish, which would have brought qualification to next year’s tournament, and a place at WXV 1 later this year where they would have faced England and New Zealand.

Malcolm and her squad will now have the opportunity of defending their WXV 2 title in South Africa.

She said: “Is it the worst thing for us to go to WXV 2, have a bit more ball in hand and have the opportunity to refine some of the aspects of our game which didn’t work this campaign, like our attack and set piece.

Scotland Rugby News: Rachel Malcolm in action against EnglandRachel Malcolm in action against England (Image: SNS)

"if we went to WXV 1, are we ready to compete at that level? If you look at our game against England [a 46-0 defeat], we’re probably not quite there yet. We’ve got the opportunity to go to South Africa and retain our title.”

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The Loughborough Lightning flanker also reflected on a positive 12 months for Scotland Women.

“This time last year we were just off the back of 12 losses in a row and we were in a really low place as a team,” she said.

Malcolm added: “In the last 12 months we have achieved seven wins in a row for the first time since 2001, won a trophy for the first time since 2001 beat Wales away for the first time in 20 years and Italy away for the first time in 25 years. We’ve done a huge amount.

“There is so much more to us than that result [against Ireland] but there are definitely things from the game that we need to learn from.

“We’re in a very good place.”

Malcolm was speaking after she and Scotland vice-captain Helen Nelson ran a training session at the University of Edinburgh last week.

Their visit, along with England centre Emily Scarratt, was part of the partnership between Vodafone and The Good, The Scaz & The Rugby, which has rolled out its EmpowHER project with the aim of better connecting university players to the elite game.

Scotland Rugby News: Helen Nelson and Rachel Malcolm were at Edinburgh University with Emily Scarratt (centre) last weekHelen Nelson and Rachel Malcolm were at Edinburgh University with Emily Scarratt (centre) last week (Image: Fuse PR)


She continued: “We’re starting to see girls who have played rugby at a good level for all of their teenage years.

“I think you are seeing the difference in terms of the quality of players that are coming into the squad at a young age – the likes of Nicole Flynn, Cieron Bell, Natasha Logan, Alex Stewart – they are all very young, but they’ve come in with a good skill-set and having been exposed to some high-level rugby.

"Alex is the prime example of that, but someone like Tash [Logan] has come in and really thrived in the environment.

“She’s got quite a lot of scope to improve but she’s got all the ingredients. She’s got a brilliant attitude and it’s been brilliant to work with her as part of the EmpowHER programme.”