Mattinson's Whirlwind Journey
If a first cap for your country can come in more exceptional circumstances, then Caity Mattinson would perhaps beg to differ.
The scrum-half won a first Scotland cap in February as part of the squad to achieve World Cup qualification against Colombia, as they reached the sport’s marquee competition for the first time since 2010. Worcester Warriors’ Mattinson had previously earned Test recognition with England, but a brief chat with her cements her unwavering passion to represent the Thistle. Coming off the bench in that Colombia triumph was unsurprisingly special.
“It was a huge huge day for the team, a long day coming after 12 years, but also a first cap is such a special occasion. I’ll remember it for that as well as the win, it was a big deal for me.”
“I absolutely loved it and came away from the game surprised in so much as I didn’t know I could have that much fun around an international environment like that. It was a pressure occasion but so enjoyable and I loved every minute of it, the period leading up to the game as well.”
“By the time I came on there was certainly less pressure and it was nice to go on and enjoy the whole experience of it. From the moment I was invited into training you could feel how important the build-up to these games was. It’s means so much to everyone, and the messages we got from ex-players, coaches, families and so on showed that it’s much bigger than the playing group that achieved it, and I’m very grateful to have been a part of it.”
When the opportunity presented itself for Caity to look into the possibility of nailing her international colours to a Scottish mast, she positively pounced, as she explained: “As soon as World Rugby released the eligibility changes, I immediately spoke to my other half and said that I thought that made me available to play for Scotland. I would never say I regretted playing for England and the opportunities that came with it as a player and a person, but I always wanted to play for Scotland - I grew up watching games at BT Murrayfield.”
“I spoke to the Director of Rugby at Worcester to ask if it was a good idea for them to get in touch with Bryan [Easson, Head Coach] and suggest I would be eligible. She gave them a call and they asked if I would be keen to be invited to training, which of course I was incredibly keen to do."
"It was a no-brainer really and I was desperate to give it a go. It happened quickly, from thinking my international days were gone, even considering going to the World Cup as a spectator, to playing a small part in the qualification. It’s an amazing group of girls, the staff are great, and I just feel in a really good place with my rugby at the minute.”
From watching games to being paraded at them, as Caity and her teammates were applauded at half-time during Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations match against France at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 26 February this year. It was a mad dash from Dubai to Edinburgh for the squad but they made it in time to receive the adulation of the crowd for World Cup qualification.
“It was brilliant, we got such a fantastic reception from the crowd,” added Mattinson. “We were all so tired from the travel and despite the exhaustion, you had to enjoy it because of the atmosphere. Hopefully what we’ve done gets more people behind our team as we head into the Six Nations.”
“The first three weeks are back-to-back so there’s no rest and we’re straight into it but I think we’re in a good place, we’ve had longer together as a squad than any other country in the Six Nations so hopefully we can go and make a good account of ourselves.”
Having the Rugby World Cup rescheduled on account of Covid-19 has offered a chance for players like Caity, who would not have otherwise been part of the selection mix in 2021.
As she put it: “Yeah exactly, it was a tough thing for players expecting to go to the World Cup last year. Lots of players will have put stuff on hold with that in mind but hopefully it presents me with an opportunity that I never thought would be possible.”
It’s been a dream so far for the scrum-half, with plenty more to come in what could turn out to be the most memorable year of her rugby career.