Rachel Malcolm on the season so far
It has been a rollercoaster of a season for Scotland Women captain Rachel Malcolm. From trips to the Southern Hemisphere to three matches of the Women’s Six Nations being postponed, she has always looked at the positives and how it has helped the squad develop.
Flanker Malcolm was named as captain of the Scotland Women squad in November last year. She previously led the team, alongside Helen Nelson, to victory in their first tour and their first matches in the Southern Hemisphere.
She described those matches as being “the best experience”, adding that “it was an amazing experience to grow as a squad both on and off the pitch in an incredible country”.
Talking at length about the trip in a blog that she wrote for the Scottish Rugby website, she said: “The squad left South Africa in a very strong place – both on and off the pitch – following a solid block of training, two strong wins and some great time together as a squad.”
The season continued to develop and prepare the team in the best way possible under the new coaching guidance of Philip Doyle. They fought hard in two tough matches at Scotstoun against Japan and Wales. The former saw Malcolm pick up the Player of the Match award. A fantastic accolade, especially when she was playing out of position at hooker.
In January, Malcolm travelled to Spain with the squad where she watched them win 12-36. Unfortunately, this was from the side lines due to injury.
She said: “I was extremely lucky to be able to go and train with the squad and stay involved. This was pretty unique opportunity, but it was great to be able to support the girls in a slightly different way from the side lines and acting as water carrier.
“It was amazing to see Helen Nelson captain for the first time and lead the girls to not only a win, but a brilliant team performance.”
Looking back at the tour, the Autumn Tests and the trip to Spain, Malcolm said: “I think we were the best prepared we have ever been going into the Six Nations. The best way of improving is by putting yourself up against tough competition. It exposes your weaknesses and helps you learn and grow as a team, which is exactly what we have done across this season.
“The additional time together has allowed us to grow closer as a team which is vital when going into such an intense competition like the Six Nations, particularly this season where there were a number of challenges to overcome.”
A challenging Six Nations is definitely one way to describe it for Scotland Women. The first hurdle came from the Scotland v England match which was played behind closed doors at BT Murrayfield – 24 hours after it was originally scheduled – due to Storm Ciara.
This was then followed by matches against Italy, France and Wales being postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Malcolm said on the campaign: “The Six Nations was a whirlwind experience this season, which was jam packed full of challenges for the squad. For me, it has been a massive mixture of emotions.
“The various hurdles we came up against were obviously stressful and rather exhausting at times, however what was so special about this 6 Nations was that these challenges exposed how strong a unit we are.
“The team, the management and Scottish Rugby itself thrived when faced with challenge, after challenge and came together and were united in every single way.
“I can honestly say it is probably the proudest I have been to be a part of Scottish Rugby.
“From a personal point of view, it has been a massive honour to lead the girls this Six Nations and see us put in two very promising performances against Ireland and England.
“It has been disappointing to not play more rugby, but sometimes some things are a lot bigger than the sport and the girls are hungrier than ever to get back out there and do a job for Scotland.
“The team has never been closer, both on and off the pitch. We have learnt so much about each other, and management alike, from going through this rollercoaster season.
“I think it has put us in a brilliant position to push on and move forward next season and the seasons to come.”
Malcolm got her first cap for Scotland in 2016 against Spain. She looked back at how the set up for Scotland has developed in this time and what the main contributing factors have been.
She said: “The additional exposure to international rugby and all that comes with it has been key. By exposing players and the team to more international rugby, we are better prepared both mentally and physically for the challenges which it brings. So, when it comes down to important crunch matches, we are in a much better position to succeed.”
Hopeful that when rugby gets playing again, she will have more opportunities to lead the team, she said on the experience: “Getting the opportunity to captain Scotland this season has been an absolute honour and I have loved every second of it. It was quite a unique year for us, with lots of changes, new opportunities and new challenges, so it was quite a busy year on a personal level having to manage all of those things.
“However, the girls have been so supportive, as have all of the management to help me lead the squad as best I can. In particular, a number of leaders within the squad have been massively influential, especially vice captain Helen Nelson.”