Bartlett loving the international life
After pulling on the Scotland jersey for the first time in January 2020, Leah Bartlett has enjoyed a swift rise through the ranks.
The Leicestershire-born 22-year-old experienced a bright start to her international career, scoring on her debut in Scotland’s impressive 12-36 victory against Spain in Almeria.
“It was really cool away in Almeria,” she said. “We hadn’t beaten Spain in a good number of years and the rapport with the team was really good.
“I don’t think at any point in that game I thought we were going to lose it. I felt like I had played with the group for such a long time.
“I had only just come into the squad after Christmas and the game was in January so I hadn’t been involved that long, but it almost felt like I had been.”
Following a positive start to her Scotland journey, the loosehead prop went on to make her Women's Six Nations debut the following month against Ireland.
Despite it being a truncated season that was plagued with postponements due to weather and the Covid-19 pandemic, Bartlett still looks back fondly at her first Women’s Six Nations experience.
“The Six Nations was such a cool experience,” she added. “I remember, vividly, as we ran out to play against Ireland I was stood on the pitch for the anthems and it was a really surreal experience.
“Something that as a kid I watched growing up, the Six Nations was such a big tournament and suddenly I was a part of it.”
“The France match was such a cool game to be part of and the whole in-camp experience was great. The way we prepped for it was so good, everyone was just ready to play. I remember speaking to one of the girls and they asked how I was feeling and I was nervous. France are such a good team and have a long history behind them of such amazing performances.
“When we equalised me and Sarah Bonar turned to each other and said ‘we could do this, we could beat France’. It was a really amazing experience.”
Bartlett was identified through the Scottish Qualified programme, with her mum and dad hailing from Stornoway and Ardross respectively.
She first picked up a rugby ball at the age of four when she started playing in the junior section at her local club in Loughborough and now regularly turns out for Premier 15s side, Loughborough Lightning.
“Being from Leicestershire, the club that played in the Premiership was Lichfield. I went to a good few of their games before Loughborough Lightning took their place in the Premiership instead. Being part of the English pathway, as much as I watched all international matches, the main people I had the exposure to were the England girls. Which is a bit surreal now to be playing against them, even at Lightning playing with some of them I’m still a little bit star struck!
“When we played them last year, you didn’t really think about it until afterwards. I was thinking ‘I’m usually playing in the same colour as you’ but I definitely grew up watching Maggie Alphonsi and Rocky who were such amazing players.”
While reflecting on her first year in Scotland camp, Bartlett remains optimistic that the best is still yet to come from the squad.
"As a squad the general feeling is that we’re building," she explained. "We are well aware that we’re not the finished product but that’s the exciting part about it. Every game we are able to provide something new and that’s what’s really exciting about it. We have the ability to build upon what we’ve done before."