2018 reflection for girls and women’s rugby in Scotland

Over the past 12 months, girls and women’s rugby in Scotland has seen major developments in all aspects of the game.

Gemma Fay joined Scottish Rugby in January in the role of Head of Women’s and Girl’s Rugby. Fay, who won 203 caps for the Scotland Women’s Football national side in a 19-year career, joined from sportscotland where she had worked as a Governing Body Partnerships Manager since 2009.

Reflecting on her time so far, Gemma said, “I began in post at Scottish Rugby just prior to the Six Nations. This provided me with an excellent opportunity to see how everything worked in a competition environment. I got to see how the ‘team’, players and staff, worked together under pressure. I then reflected on the results and the performances and reviewed where we believed as a team we could get better.

“It has been great to bring in Brian Easson and Scott Forrest to support Shade Munro in the coaching side. In addition, further staffing additions are allowing the squad to operate and perform in a more professional manner than ever before”.

Talking about the current squad and how they are developing their rugby skills, Gemma said: “We now have more Scottish players playing in England and France, exposing them to more competitive playing and training environments and an increased training intensity and opportunities for our home-based players. This creates more depth and competition in the squad, with players ultimately driving each other to be better. That is what we want and what we need if we are to develop and grow as a team.

“This year we have enjoyed seeing twelve players receive their International caps. This is credit to how women and girl’s rugby is developing across Scotland due to the fact that nine of the twelve have come from the Scottish club or University set up.

“The Autumn Tests were a fantastic addition to the calendar for 2018. This allowed us to showcase the game to more people, especially due to the BBC ALBA deal. I am looking forward to the Six Nations and seeing how the team perform in this competitive environment.”

Earlier this year, Scottish Rugby launched the Scottish Futures programme. This programme offers opportunities for women and girls aged between 15 ½ and 19 to be part of the player development programme with a focus on rugby skills, game understanding and behaviours needed to succeed in a high-performance rugby environment. Success from this programme is already being seen with players like Rachel McLachlan graduating into the senior squad in the Autumn Tests.

Scotland Women also welcomed their first front of shirt sponsor as SP Energy Networks came on board to support the team and also work with rugby to highlight career opportunities in science and engineering to young women.

In November, Scottish Rugby reached a ground-breaking deal with BBC ALBA to televise an unprecedented number of women’s matches over the next year. The deal includes not only the broadcast of the women’s Six Nations coverage, but also coverage of the final of the Sarah Beaney Cup - a huge show of support to reflect the growth of the women’s game.

In the club game, Hillhead Jordanhill achieved the double after they won not only the Tennent’s Women’s Premier League but also the Sarah Beaney Cup at Silver Saturday at BT Murrayfield.

A league restructure was completed after a robust consultation period with all clubs. The new format has been designed to enable clubs to attract bigger, more consistent squad sizes through a move to playing more matches in the spring and summer period and avoiding the worst of the winter months.

With so many successes and developments in both the club and national arms of the women and girls game, we are all excited to get 2019 underway.