A year of growth for Scotland Women
February marked 30 years since the first ever international fixture for Scotland Women, and the team have had a busy year.
They qualified for their first Rugby World Cup in 12 years, played in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, flew out to New Zealand to compete in the Rugby World Cup, and received full-time professional contracts. The representational team, the Thistles, have also taken part in the inaugural Celtic Challenge. Find out more about their journey over the last year below.
Rugby World Cup qualification
Only one of Scotland or Ireland could qualify for the World Cup, and it was always going to be a close game. Scores from Rhona Lloyd and Lana Skeldon would not have been enough, but Chloe Rollie burst over the line to bring the game even in its dying moments, and Sarah Law showed her nerves of steel to kick the conversion. The Scots won 20-18 to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive.
Their final qualification match was against a rather unknown opponent in the form of Colombia. This was only the Colombians’ fifth ever capped international fixture, but they were undefeated in their previous four. Scotland dominated with a clinical, professional and polished 9-try victory (59-3).
Captain Rachel Malcolm said the team are “passionate about taking Scotland women to the next level.”
TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2022
In the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations, Scotland were within one try of three different games, but ended up with only losing bonus points to show for their efforts.
They opened their campaign with a comprehensive loss to England (5-57), who were in the midst of a 30-game winning streak—the longest in rugby union history— and were soon to be World Cup silver medallists.
In their first away game, Scotland took 14 points into the second half versus Wales’ 7, but ended up losing by 5 points (24-19). France beat Scotland 28-8, and Italy won 20-13 after Scotland were once again leading at halftime.
There was just one point in the Ireland game as Ireland took their revenge for the World Cup Qualification, beating Scotland 15-14.
As the World Cup approached, Scottish Rugby announced a historic investment: full time professional contracts for 28 female players. Since December, these women have been full time rugby players.
The first year focusses on skills and development of each individual player, with the players based at their existing clubs. Professional contracts allow the players to focus first and foremost on their rugby, as well as having more time for recovery and analysis.
Jim Mallinder (Scottish Rugby’s Director of High Performance): “These contracts are a significant first step in a long-term journey towards professionalising the women’s game. Today’s announcement will provide a crucial boost ahead of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations championship.”
Captain Rachel Malcolm, said: “The opportunity to go professional is not one I thought I would have within my career and as a playing group we are determined to use this opportunity to take Scotland Women to a new level.”
Rugby World Cup
Scotland were in a pool with Wales, Australia, and RWC hosts New Zealand. Three of the four teams in this pool would go through to the knockout stages.
The opening fixture against Wales was one that either team was fully capable of winning on their day, and both teams would have their eyes on this game as a must-win to progress further in the competition. Scotland looked strong, with one try from hooker Lana Skeldon and a brace from winger Megan Gaffney, but it was Wales who took the ecstasy of a 3 point win from an 86th minute penalty, while Scotland suffered the agony of such a narrow, late defeat (18-15).
Amazingly, the game against Australia was even closer. Once again, Scotland were devastated with a narrow loss, going down 12-14 to Australia after being 12-0 up at half time thanks to a try from Lana Skeldon and a penalty try.
Despite spells of fantastic defence from Scotland, particularly in the second half, New Zealand showed the skills that would win them the tournament with a strong victory. The difference between Scotland in the first half and the second shows how much the experience has taught them.
Captain Rachel Malcolm said “We’ve shown that we deserve to be here, and you can’t fault the effort, the heart and the attitude,” and that the experience has “just made us hungrier.”
It hasn’t just been the central squad that have had opportunities for development.
In an effort to improve depth in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, this pilot, supported by World Rugby, allowed rising talent within Scottish Futures and Tennent’s Premiership to play alongside home-based contracted players. The Thistles played against the Combined Provinces of Ireland, and Welsh Development XV.
The 37-player squad was led by Head Coach Claire Cruikshank, who said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed Head Coach of The Thistles in what is a really exciting period for women’s rugby in Scotland. It’s fantastic to have a competition that helps to bridge the gap between the domestic and the elite game.”
World Rugby continues to be in productive discussions with the IRFU, SRU and WRU on a long-term vision for the competition.