Women's Six Nations: Scotland will be 'fitter, faster & stronger'
|Women's Six Nations: Scotland v Italy|
|Venue: Scotstoun Date: 1 February Time: 19:35 GMT|
Scotland's women will be a "fitter, faster, stronger" team for the 2019 Six Nations, says head coach Shade Munro.
Last year, the Scots beat Ireland but lost their other four matches to finish fifth in the championship.
The Scots begin their campaign against Italy at Scotstoun on Friday and Munro believes his squad are "more skilful, more determined" than ever.
"There's huge improvement across the board. The basic level of fitness and skill has increased," Munro said.
"We're focusing on Ireland, Wales and Italy who are in a similar position to us.
"That's not to say we're giving up on the England and France games, those are a huge and great experience to be part of, but all we can do is our best."
Scotland suffered a whitewash in 2016, and were crushed 55-0 by France and 64-0 by England. The following year, they beat Wales and Italy at home, before last season's first ever win in Ireland.
More recently, Munro's side have suffered narrow warm-up defeats by the world's fourth best side, Canada, and Spain, who are ninth.
"We've not won many games but we weren't even in a position to compete before that," said Munro of a period in which they went 35 games without winning.
"When I came into the job in 2015, the level of competition they faced didn't prepare them for international rugby, so trying to get as many playing at a higher level on a weekly basis was the start of it."
Eight players are now supported by Scottish Rugby contracts, while the likes of captain Lisa Thomson, Jade Konkel and Lisa Martin are playing at the highest level in England and France.
"When they go over they realise they aren't superstars they're playing against," he said.
"Previously you didn't get much exposure to French players, you see them on TV and think they are outstanding. But when you go and play with them you realise you're just as good as they are."
Scotland team to face Italy:
Chloe Rollie (Lille Metropole); Liz Musgrove (Hong Kong RFC), Hannah Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill), Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park, captain), Annabel Sergeant (Heriots); Helen Nelson (Montpellier), Mhairi Grieve (Firwood Waterloo); Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park), Lana Skeldon (Watsonians), Megan Kennedy (Stirling County); Emma Wassell (Heriots), Sarah Bonar (Loughborough Lightning); Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning), Rachel McLachlan (Stirling County), Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County)
Replacements: Jodie Rettie (Saracens), Katie Dougan (Gloucester Hartpury), Mairi Forsyth (Stirling County), Sophie Anderson (Hillhead Jordanhill), Nicola Howat (Edinburgh University), Sarah Law (Edinburgh University), Lisa Martin (Lille Metropole), Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough Lightning)