A half-century of appearances for Lana
It wasn’t quite the perfect 50th cap for Lana Skeldon, as Scotland lost out narrowly to Wales in Round 2 of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, but the outpouring of sentiment made for a pretty special weekend in any case.
Some 11 years since a Test debut, the hooker brought up a half century of international appearances in the close Cardiff encounter. It was a week of build-up that caught the Worcester Warriors player by surprise, as she explained: “It was totally overwhelming, and I was just taken aback by the amount of messages and cards and I don’t know how else to describe it other than feeling really loved! I’m not someone who likes being the centre of attention but it was a nice feeling."
"I always feel like a massive part of the team, it just really hit home seeing people saying nice things and it showed me how valued I feel in the squad. I never really think about that, I just get on with things and I was super grateful for all the messages.”
Lana does not court attention, as her teammates would tell you – it’s all about playing the game. As far as Scotland’s outing in Cardiff, any thoughts of personal success are shelved for analysis on the 24-19 defeat to the Welsh. “Parts of the game went to plan but it was just a case of taking our opportunities that let us down,” said Lana.
“Anyone I’ve spoken to who watched the game said how great it was to watch, but it was just as amazing to be a part of it from minute one. It was full-on, which is what you want and why we all play. We’re not happy with the result but the performance was good in parts and also having some of the young guns playing and doing really well, looking to the future we’re headed in the right direction for sure.”
That future is looking increasingly bright for Bryan Easson and his charges, with several new faces slipping seamlessly into the national programme which, in a World Cup year, is most welcome.
Half-centurion Lana added: “Oh yeah, the young kids we’ve got coming through just now have got an immense amount of talent. You had someone like Shona [Campbell] stepping up at 15, that was a massive role to fill with Chloe [Rollie] unavailable. She brought her own edge to the game and it was good to see Shona get a shot, I was super impressed with her."
“Emma Orr – talk about being flung in the deep end! She was fantastic and another unbelievable talent. I’ve seen her come up through the pathways, I think it was an U18 training day and I was helping out with a bit of coaching, and she was someone I picked out straight away. Her ability to pass the ball whilst running at full speed is one of those things that you underestimate how hard it actually is. She doesn’t even break stride; she just runs flat out and still distributes the ball so well. Her defensive work against Wales was so good as well."
"Then someone like Evie Gallagher coming in to play 7, she’s been in and around the squad for a while but got that opportunity against Wales and she’s a physical player who is very keen to learn and she’ll be a big player for a number of years."
“The amount of depth that’s being created in the squad is great. In times gone past we might have had one payer in each position, whereas now there are two or three in each position gunning for selection and that’s the way that teams improve going forward.”
On Women’s rugby in general being bigger and better than ever before, with a title sponsor and better coverage year on year, Lana is well-placed to offer opinion on how much the game has grown recently:
“I don’t even think there was a live stream for my first cap!” she quipped. “People don’t maybe realise how much we appreciate it. Of course we say it on social media and everything, but we really do mean it and they make a genuine difference when you’re maybe exhausted on the pitch and need a boost. We value the support so much and for people to see how much we’re improving as a squad is a big thing for us."
“The fact we’re on BBC Two now is absolutely insane, it’s the exposure that is making a huge difference. You see at DAM Health Stadium how much the team is being supported now, and we’re trying to inspire young girls – and boys – into playing rugby.”
In this World Cup year, with so much excitement surrounding Scotland’s qualification, Lana summed up perfectly what it means to be in the here and now:
“It’s literally a childhood dream. I don’t try to look to far ahead but getting to a World Cup has been the main driving force behind what I want to achieve in rugby ever since I started. Getting to 50 caps at the weekend kind of crept up on me, I knew it was coming but I’m still a bit gobsmacked by it. Getting to that number of caps and possibly playing in a World Cup in the same year would just be a dream come true.”
50 caps and counting for one of Scotland’s most cherished players. If she didn’t know before, she certainly does now.
Hear more from the Hawick-born forward in the interview below.