Emma flying at 50
In the 2014 Six Nations tournament, Emma Wassell made her debut for Scotland from the bench against Ireland in a disheartening 59-0 loss.
But as fate would have it, the Aberdeen-born forward would go on to earn her 50th against the same side some seven years on, playing in the most crucial game of her career to date whilst becoming the first player in Scottish rugby history to earn 50 consecutive caps for her country.
Although the opposition in these two instances remained the same, Wassell remarks that a lot has changed since the 26-year-old first pulled on the Scotland jersey.
“My first cap feels so long ago but equally it also feels like it was just yesterday. Looking back, I was so young and inexperienced”, she explained.
“I had never been exposed to playing in front of a crowd before, and I had never watched or been to a women’s international rugby match so it was all completely new to me.
“Being able to walk out and lead the team on to the pitch was so special. I didn’t know that was happening so it came as quite a surprise but I tried to take it all in.
“When you compare my first match to now, it’s much more of a spectacle. So much around me has changed, such as the grounds, the number of supporters at games and the level of interest in women’s rugby but the way I felt walking out for my 50th cap honestly felt the same as when I walked out for my first.”
But one of the most enviable changes between these two caps, is the score line.
Scotland produced a breath-taking fightback to beat Ireland in the final moments of the game to ensure that qualification for next year’s Rugby World Cup remains within their grasp.
The two-point, thrill-laden encounter was settled with a late Chloe Rollie try, converted by the ice-cool Sarah Law.
“We’ve never played a game that has had so much at stake,” said Wassell
“I was very much focused on the game and I wasn’t thinking too much about my personal achievement despite feeling hugely proud and honoured to be able to get 50 caps.
“I knew when Chloe got the try that we needed the conversion. I didn’t celebrate the try at the time and we linked up as a group. I think I closed my eyes but I can’t really remember what happened. At the same time, I had so much confidence in Sarah but I didn’t fully allow myself to believe that this could be the outcome. I felt numb when that kick went over.
“I remember after the match taking a second to myself and standing in the middle of the pitch trying to process the day. It was really special and I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the tournament.”
The squad have endured a long, arduous qualification journey thus far, and with the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament on the horizon, Wassell is eager to keep building on the momentum of the past year.
She added: “We’ve all made a lot of sacrifices this year to be able to play so I think there is an added appreciation and sense of togetherness from the squad. We have had to stick together this year.
“We’ve been through many highs and lows but we have always kept the belief. We needed to make sure we had belief throughout our group. We went into the Europe qualifiers as fourth seed and although it wouldn’t be right to assume we would struggle to get into that top two position, we knew we could do it.”