I Do, Ron, Ron

For the Scotland Women's squad, juggling training and full time jobs while negotiating three weeks' holiday to compete in the Rugby World Cup has been a challenge but has, in most cases, at least happened in the same country. For one member of the team, however, the build-up to the tournament came when she'd just begun a new job - in the Middle East.

So how has Ronnie Fitzpatrick - who will win her 61st international cap today in the final tournament fixture against Ireland (kick-off 11.15am) - coped with a solo training programme in blistering temperatures, while also deflecting scurrillous rumours that RWC 2010 also delayed her impending nuptials?


Ronnie and captain Lynne Reid congratulate Lucy Millard on a try in the World Cup game against Sweden

The Scotland back has never been one to resist a challenge, however. While a pupil at St Mungo's High, in Falkirk, she organised a petition on behalf of the girls to be taught rugby, just like the boys, and succeeded, going on to join Falkirk then Edinburgh Accies and RHC.

So relocating to Dubai to work as a corporate banking manager, six weeks before the World Cup kicked off, while continue her international training was just another can-do.

Said Fitzpatrick: "Rugby has always taken priority but this move was such an opportunity for work yet I really wanted to be available for the World Cup, too. I knew I'd be missing five weeks of training - two Scotland weekends and the Ireland warm-up game - but Gary (head coach) was very supportive and my boss was happy to let me use three weeks of my holiday to come here and participate in the tournament."

Her training programme during those weeks was a bit different to that of her team mates - no rain, biting winds or low-lying mist over Murrayfield's back pitches, for a start.

"I had our strength and conditioning coach, Neil's programme to follow - weights, speed and endurance. The difficulty was, though, that although the sun goes down after work, it's still about 35 degrees and you can feel the heat burning the back of your throat.

"I had contacted a few of the girls' teams but, at the time, they hadn't started pre-season training so I joined up with a guys' team - Dubai Exiles - one night a week. And another night I'd train with the older guys - the Pot Bellies, they're called! Although I made up my own training schedule, I made sure I stuck to Neil's programmes."

Ronnie also joined a touch league, on another evening, and admits: "That was really tough. I was sweating buckets. At one point I had to phone Norma (Scotland Women physio) because of the cramp I was getting in my legs, through losing so much salt."

Arriving in sunny-but-hardly-sweltering Surrey for the World Cup, then, she must have felt super-fit?

"It's difficult to gauge your fitness when you're coming straight into a tournament like this because of the pattern of playing, recovering, training one day then a light day the next day then you're playing again. I'd say my heart was probably getting a good workout because of the Dubai heat, though."


Ronnie and Donna Kennedy, who will also retire after today's game, take on Canada's Heather Moyse

Her two-year posting to the Gulf state has meant that this match with Ireland - she won her first cap against the same opposition in 2003 - will probably be her last game in the blue shirt.

As she reasons: "I kind of need to call it a day because I can't come back to Scotland for international games - it's a seven-hour flight so you couldn't go back and forth for the six weeks of Six Nations. I've been playing at this level for eight years, and I probably have a few more years left in me, but the move has allowed me to make the decision and concentrate on my career now.

"I'll still play sevens across there - the training is full on, lots of fitness work and extra sessions. Not that you usually retire from international rugby and then go on to play sevens - that's supposed to be for the young ones! But it'll be a good way to see the country - there are only two girls' sevens teams in Dubai and two tournaments a month in places like Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Doha and Quatar. And I'm keen to do some sort of coaching with kids - I'd like to give a lot back to the sport because it's given me so much over the years."


Receiving her fiftieth international cap from Scottish Rugby President, Ian McLauchlan

Amongst all this, Ronnie will be fitting in a trip back to Scotland next year to attend a wedding - her own!

She says: "We didn't arrange it for this year as we knew we couldn't because of the Rugby World Cup - there was a bit of a rumour going around that we'd had to rearrange it for next year, because of the tournament, but it was never planned for 2010 in the first place. Neil (her fiance) has been so supportive of my playing and training and now I've gone off to Dubai for two years to go on my next adventure!"

Of more immediate concern, however, is the small matter of the seventh place play-off match against Ireland today, then: "It's back to work in Dubai on Tuesday. It's the last week of Ramadan so you can't eat or drink during the day. Now that'll be a challenge, given the amount of fluid we've been taking on here on a daily basis!"

 

Scotland Women take on Ireland in the play-off for seventh place today (Sunday 5 September) kicking off at 11.15am at Surrey Sports Park. Scotland have already improved their world ranking by one place, to eighth, since the tournament began.