The Thistles coaching set-up and squad confirmed ahead of Celtic Challenge competition

The Thistles coaching set-up and squad confirmed ahead of Celtic Challenge competition

The Thistles Head Coach, Claire Cruikshank, has today announced a 37-player squad ahead of the inaugural Celtic Challenge competition.

Cruikshank, who was previously Sweden Women Head Coach and worked with the Scotland Women coaching group last year as part of the Rugby World Cup Coaching Internship programme, will lead the coaching team alongside FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy coach Chris Laidlaw and Performance Coach, Stuart Corsar.

The squad comprises of rising talent within the Scottish Futures programme and Tennent’s Premiership, alongside home-based contracted players Elliann Clarke, Emma Orr, Evie Wills and Meryl Smith.

Read more: The Thistles team named ahead of Celtic Challenge opener

With World Rugby committed to advancing the competitiveness of the elite women’s game, the international federation is financially supporting the Celtic Challenge Pilot in 2023 and continues to be in productive discussions with the IRFU, SRU and WRU on a long-term vision for the competition.

Speaking of her appointment, Cruikshank 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 and I’m looking forward to working with this group of players and seeing what they can achieve over the next month.”

The Thistles will take on the Welsh Development XV side in the competition’s opening fixture this Sunday (22 January, kick-off 2.30pm) at Scotstoun Stadium.

The side will travel to Kingspan Stadium to take on Combined Provinces XV on Saturday 4 February (kick-off 4.30pm), before heading to Cardiff Arms Park a week later to face Welsh Development XV (Saturday 11 February, kick-off 4.30pm).

The final match of the competition will see The Thistles go head-to-head against Combined Provinces on Saturday 25 February (kick-off 1.30pm) at DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh.

Spectators can register to watch the The Thistles home matches at Scotstoun and DAM Health Stadium via the Eventbrite links below:

Sunday 22 January: The Thistles v Welsh Development XV; Scotstoun Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm)

Saturday 25 February: The Thistles v Combined Provinces XV; DAM Health Stadium (kick-off 1.30pm)

The Thistles squad for the 2023 Celtic Challenge competition


Aila Ronald (University of Edinburgh)
Alex Stewart (University of Edinburgh)
Charlotte Boan (Cartha Queens Park)
Elliann Clarke (University of Edinburgh)
Emma Turner (Corstorphine Cougars)
Erinn Foley (Hillhead Jordanhill)
Eva Donaldson (University of Edinburgh)
Freya Walker (Watsonians)
Jess Fyfe (Cartha Queens Park)
Katie Lindsey (Stirling County)
Kaylee Fraser (Corstorphine Cougars)
Kiera McDonald (Stirling County)
Kirsty Ritchie (Biggar)
Lindsey McDiarmid (Garioch)
Molly Poolman (Watsonians)
Natasha Logan (University of Edinburgh)
Nikki Simpson (Garioch)
Poppy Fletcher (Heriot’s)
Eve Thomson (Hillhead Jordanhill)
Lucy Kidd (Corstorphine Cougars)
Sophie Murray (Stirling County)


Carla McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill)
Ceitidh Ainsworth (Stirling County)
Cieron Bell (University of Edinburgh)
Emma Orr (Biggar)
Evie Wills (Hillhead Jordanhill)
Fran McGhie (Watsonians)
Hannah Walker (University of Edinburgh)
Holly McIntyre (University of Edinburgh)
Megan Gaffney (Heriot’s)
Meryl Smith (University of Edinburgh)
Rachel Law (Watsonians)
Rachel Philipps (University of Edinburgh)
Rhea Clarke (University of Edinburgh)
Roma Fraser (Cartha Queens Park)
Sky Phimister (Stirling County)
Sarah Denholm (University of Edinburgh)

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