The Cap Still Fits

Scottish rugby’s most capped internationalist and 1998 grand-slam heroine has turned her back on retirement for the second time in a bid to help Scotland qualify for the 2010 Women’s World Cup in England.

Donna Kennedy, who has been capped 100 times for her country, most recently retired after the 2007 6 Nations but continued to ply her trade with RFUW Premiership side Worcester.

The experienced number 8 has remained a key part of the Scotland set-up as a National Academy coach but opted to return to the fray as part of the 26-woman squad that will compete for the two final World Cup qualification slots left for European teams at the FIRA European Cup in Stockholm, Sweden this month.

Russia, Belgium and the Netherlands stand in Scotland’s way in Pool A – which they must top to secure qualification – and Kennedy’s return to the front-line looks set to bolster the side’s chances of success.

Scotland head coach, Jamie Dempsey, said: “I spoke to Donna before the 6 Nations as I sensed she still had some questions she wanted to answer about playing.

“She has committed to play until the end of the World Cup at least as we wouldn’t take anyone in on a short term basis. They’ve got to fit with the programme which runs up to 2010 so she put herself up for selection and she made it into the European Championship squad.

“Through the 6 Nations she played twice against England A for the Nomads, which is like a ladies Barbarians side, and she plays a high level at Worcester week in week out so she’s been playing as high a level of rugby as everyone else.

“But don’t get me wrong; she’ll have to perform to be selected and if she doesn’t she’s as liable to be dropped as anyone else.”

The European Championships also see the return of experienced capped internationals Sonia Cull and Emma Evans, who were absent from the 6 Nations, to add to the essential sprinkle of experience in the squad provided also by back-row stalwart and captain Lynne Reid, second-row partners Louise Moffat and Lynsey Wheeler, formidable front-rower Heather Lockhart, and the prolific Lucy Millard, who all earned the expected cap call.

Dempsey said: “This is the strongest squad I’ve ever had the pleasure of selecting. Our aim is not just to qualify for the World Cup but to win the European Championship.

“All of the teams will be very fit and very physical – Russia are semi-professional – so we must use our game awareness and knowledge and bring the experience of the intensity of the 6 Nations competition to this championship which the others won’t have had.

“We’re certainly prepared for it and we want to win and are looking forward to doing just that.

“Donna [Kennedy], Sonia [Cull], Emma [Evans] and Lana [Blyth] all bring a tremendous amount of physicality and a great deal of experience.

“Emma is showing a great deal of promise, she’s a very good distributor of the ball so this is a great opportunity for her to come out and test herself at this level.

“Sonia Cull is a very good physically confrontational player and this is something I’ve been encouraging in the team as we need to get a harder edge.”

While the side can boast some well drilled capped internationalists, Dempsey looks to blood a large section of young players with two-time National under-18 Cup-winning captain, Sarah Quick, joining the tour party at just 18-years-old, along side the assertive Roz Murphy.

Dempsey added: “Both Roz and Sarah have come through our development squad and are incredibly hard working individuals. Sarah, who has only recently turned 18, is one of the most consistent front-row players in the women’s game in Scotland.”

Scotland Women squad
Heather Lockhart (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Ellen Beattie (Murrayfield Wanderers), Roz Murphy (Edinburgh University), Beth Dickens (Murrayfield Wanderers), Sarah-Lou Walker (Watsonians), Sarah Quick (Murrayfield Wanderers), Louise Moffat (Kirkcaldy), Lana Blyth (Murrayfield Wanderers), Lindsay Wheeler (Team Northumbria / Blaydon), Donna Kennedy (Worcester), Susie Brown (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Keri Holdsworth (Watsonians), Sonia Cull (Royal High Corstorphine), Lynne Reid CAPTAIN (Royal High Corstorphine), Ruth Slaven (Murrayfield Wanderers), Louise Dalgliesh (Royal High Corstorphine), Sarah Gill (Murrayfield Wanderers), Erin Kerr (Richmond), Tanya Griffith (Royal High Corstorphine), Suzi Newton (Team Northumbria / Blaydon), Ronnie Fitzpatrick (Royal High Corstorphine), Laura Steven (Murrayfield Wanderers), Emma Evans (Watsonians), Cara D'Silva (Royal High Corstorphine), Vik Blakebrough (Richmond), Lucy Millard (Murrayfield Wanderers)

FIRA European Cup – winner of each pool will be qualified to WRWC 2010 (no knock-out stage)

Pool A
Scotland (5th in 6 Nations)
Netherlands
Russia
Belgium 

Pool B
Italy (6th in 6 Nations)
Spain
Sweden
Germany 

Campaign schedule
Scotland Women v Russia Sunday 17 May
Scotland Women v Belgium Wednesday 20 May
Scotland Women v Netherlands Saturday 23 May

Participating Unions in FIRA Championship, Stockholm (by rank):
1. 2009 6 Nations ranked 5th (Scotland)
2. 2009 6 Nations ranked 6th (Italy)
3. Spain
4. Netherlands
5. Russia
6. Sweden
7. Germany
8. Belgium
Ranking 3 to 8 according to 2008 European Championship in Amsterdam

RWC European qualification:
• England and France (2nd and 3rd placed in the 2006WRWC) are qualified
• 1st and 2nd (outside England and France) from the 2009 6 Nations
Two pool winners from 2009 FIRA European Championship in Stockholm