Scotland Women in GB 7s squad

Scotland Women internationals Steph Johnston and Megan Gaffney are about to complete their second week of training at the top flight of the women’s 7s game.

The players are the only two Scots – and two of only four non full-time England professionals – to be selected for Team GB’s Rugby Women Sevens squad.

Along with two players from Wales, Johnston and Gaffney – who have also represented Scotland Women 7s and GB Sevens at the World Student Games – have joined England’s 19 full-time professionals for a three month training programme at England’s training base at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford.

The women are training together in preparation, initially, for three training tournaments, including one in Spain and one in Dubai, before the end of the year.

Catching up with the players on their day off, both were relishing the opportunity for immersion in such a 24/7 rugby environment.

Winger Gaffney said: “It does feel quite weird! I’m used to squeezing my training round my day job, in the evenings and at weekends, so getting some free time is taking a bit of getting used to.

“It was quite fortunate, in a way, as this happened when my job contract – as a women’s and girls’ development officer in the west – had come to an end, so I was between jobs.”

Finding out about her selection happened, however, when she was indulging in a completely different sport.

She said:

“I actually found out during the Glasgow Warriors golf day, which I’d been roped into attending. I didn’t quite understand at first, as to me a camp is two or three days over a weekend. To be able to spend three months completely immersed in your sport is amazing.”

Full back Johnston, who has captained Scotland Women 7s since the team’s inception four seasons ago has been equally enthusiastic about the opportunity offered. Though having had a month’s experience of playing sevens in Australia earlier this year had a better idea of the intensity to expect.

She said: “It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced here before. Having time to do everything that I used to have to rush to fit in round work, is fantastic.

“The weeks will be following a similar pattern of skills, gym and conditioning, after the first week introduction to the gym, putting together a weights programme and fitness testing. Then we have wrestling every Friday.”

Unlike Megan, Steph’s work as a vet meant she has taken a sabbatical from work – “my boss has been very understanding”. Both players have been supported financially by Scottish Rugby during the three-month camp, allowing them to finance living accommodation and food.

While the ultimate goal is Rio 2016, neither player is looking that far ahead.

Johnston said: “The three-month camp takes us up to December, after which there’s no obligation for us to stay or go, and Team GB selection happens next summer.

“We’re focusing on building our skills, training in a professional, international environment and hoping to expand our experience in the training tournaments.”