Scotland Women duo head for Dubai

As the sevens’ season gets underway with the opening World Series event in Dubai this weekend, Scotland Women internationals Steph Johnston and Megan Gaffney travel to the city with fellow Team GB players as a GB Select, to compete in the parallel international invitational tournament. 

Full back Johnston and winger Gaffney were selected into the Great Britain training squad in October and have been based full-time at the camp in Surrey. This week’s event gives the squad the first chance to test themselves as they build towards the Olympic Games in Rio next summer.

Johnston, who is team vice-captain for the tournament said: “We play Tokyo Phoenix, Kenya Lionesses and Columbia in our pool on day 1.

“Other strong teams in the competition include Wales, South Africa, Canadian Maple Leafs and the French development side, so the tournament’s of a decent standard. 

Preparation has been going very well. We have a strong team with a lot of international sevens’ experience.      

"We’ve also had the benefit of training with, and running against the England side that’s competing on the World Series this week, giving us a chance to test our team shape and play against a strong side.”

The tournament marks the two-thirds time mark for Johnston and Gaffney in this initial extended squad with further selection made next month. While her team-mate spent last week at camp in Surrey, however, North-Berwick raised winger Gaffney was across the channel in Spain.

Drafted into the ten-day Scotland Women camp, which received substantial funding from the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, she played her part last weekend in the squad’s win over the host nation in Madrid.

Gaffney then flew back to Team GB camp for two days’ training prior to flying out to Dubai. So sevens to fifteens to sevens in a short space of time – confusing?

She said: “It took a couple of days to adjust to people running directly at me, yes!  Everyone in both squads have been really helpful, like, if I’m forgetting to ruck they’ll remind me.

I’ve learnt a lot of new skills that I can transfer and I feel a lot more confident as a player. I just have to remember this week that I’ve a lot more space to work with!”

Although reaping the benefits of a full-time posting with Team GB, the Spanish camp was the first time Gaffney had experienced such intense training exposure with the XVs game.

She said: “Scotland Women have never had the opportunity before to be together for more than a few days so it’s good to be able to train without having to worry about work or anything at home and you can push on a lot quicker. Yes, you have to go back a few steps to move forward but there was a massive improvement from the start of the week to our match and that was obvious to everyone.

“There were some new faces, some younger ones, some who haven’t been involved before but everyone gelled really well and nobody looked out of place. It’s a really chilled out squad, there are no cliques and everyone just got on with it.

“By focussing on the performance rather than the result so much, and by taking that pressure off, the results are coming as we saw at the weekend.

Two different but similarly intense training camp experiences over the last few months have not only challenged Gaffney but made her look at rugby overall in a different light.

She said: “It used to be a hobby that I took quite seriously, but now it’s everything that I do. 

“Training with Team GB with the England girls, you have some of the best players in the world there so you’re only going to get better. They’ll help you out and share their experiences. It’s a really good opportunity and something that not many people from Scotland have had the chance to do.

“If I’d been asked a few weeks ago about becoming a professional player I’d have been unsure but I’m really getting into it now and can see the improvements that being able to focus solely on rugby does for you.”


International Invitation Women

Thursday 3 December

GB Select v Tokyo Phoenix (k/o 9am local)

Kenya Lionesses v GB Select (k/o 12noon local)

Colombia v GB Select (k/o 2.20pm)