Malcolm in the Middle

After two strong showings off the bench last autumn, Rachel Malcolm is excited about starting for Scotland Women in their Six Nations opener against Ireland on Friday night. Rachel Malcolm

The 25-year-old’s rise to the top has been swift, to say the least.

“Representing my country on the biggest stage is something I’ve always dreamed of doing, so to get it this quickly is something I’m very grateful for and very excited about.”

The former Scotland age-grade hockey representative made the move to rugby two seasons ago with English Premiership side Lichfield and began training with Scotland Women last summer.

She made her debut as a replacement against Spain in the first leg of the Rugby World Cup qualifier at Scotstoun in November and retained her berth on the bench the following week.

Rachel’s fitness and strength from hockey has enabled a smooth transition to rugby.

“Hockey is a very high paced game,” she explained.

“It’s put me in quite good stead coming into a new sport, especially rugby where we’re [Scotland] trying to play a lot faster game and obviously the strength side of things is very important.

“Just playing a team based sport as well, it sets you in good stead for everything in terms of communication, working with other people, how you read the game, so I think all of these things probably have set me up well to switch over."

The versatile forward, who will start at hooker against Ireland but is comfortable at back-row, has been fortunate to play alongside and learn the ropes from current England Women internationals.

Her time with Scotland Women props Lindsey Smith and Tracy Balmer – with a combined cap total of 70 – has also been invaluable.

“I’m very lucky in that I have the experience of those two props either side of me, who both, in training and in games so far, have constantly been helping me through it and I have progressed due to having them there.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity and it will be good for me to have them beside me.

“I’ve done a lot in camp to prepare me to go into the live situations; lots of work on scrummaging and the technical side. Lindsey has obviously played hooker so she can give me a lot of advice and I’ve worked with Lana [Skeldon] in terms of throwing.”

Rachel, who is a part-time lecturer in sport and exercise science and also completing a PHD at Nottingham Trent University, is not the first of her family to represent Scotland in rugby.

Her older brother Donald played for Scotland U19 and younger brother James played two seasons with Scotland U20 before going pro with Glasgow Warriors, who their father, Walter, also turned out for in the mid-1980s.

“I’ve always had a big influence of rugby in the family and now that I have changed over there is a huge amount of support there from both my brothers and my dad especially.

“My dad travels 300 miles at the weekend to come and watch me play down south so I’ll definitely have a lot of support [on Friday].”

Scotland Women play Ireland Women in their opening Six Nations match at Broadwood Stadium on Friday (kick-off 6.35pm) – live on Scottish Rugby TV.

Tickets are available HERE. Adults £10, U18s and senior citizens go free. Scotland Season Pass holders also go free.

Scotland U20 take on their Irish counterparts at 8.30pm. Tickets are valid for both matches.