Participation numbers are on the rise in Scottish women’s rugby at every level and the national team have continued to build on their impressive 2018 Women’s Six Nations.
Women’s and girls’ rugby in Scotland is having a moment. Improvements in support and visibility, from the elite level down to grassroots, has sparked significant growth in players, teams, and matches across all ages.
Since 2016 the Scotland Women’s national rugby union team has added its first four contracted professionals: Jade Konkel, Chloe Rollie and Lisa Thomson – who played for French Top 8 side Lille Métropole Rugby – and Sarah Law.
And this week they doubled that number awarding eight new contracts.
The new deals, known as ‘2021 contracts’, will give the players financial support on the path to the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021.
Konkel, Rollie and Thomson all continue their relationship with Scottish Rugby, while fellow Scotland Women caps Sarah Bonar, Megan Kennedy, Lisa Martin, Helen Nelson and Lana Skeldon have also signed 2021 contracts.
Although they represent only a small fraction of the 245 young talents supported through Scotland age-grade sides and the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy, all played pivotal roles in beating a strong Ireland in Dublin in the 2018 Championship.
The victory – emblematic of recent progress both on and off the pitch – marked the side’s first away triumph in 12 years, and statistics from Scottish Rugby’s 2017-2018 Annual Report elicit extremely positive signs mirrored in the grassroots game.
Competitive girls’ fixtures rose 139% thanks to development in cup and conference competitions, reflected by a 27% increase of university-level female players (now 670 across 16 universities), and a 19% rise in women’s teams.
Scottish Rugby’s #BeTheBestYou campaign, which emphasises the social and physical benefits of rugby, has introduced 946 female players aged 11-25 to the sport since its introduction last year.
Moreover, the Tartan Touch scheme, promoting a simplified, non-contact version of rugby, saw an estimated 560 female players attend in its first year, helping boost the establishment of new teams; the total number of women’s and girls’ teams now stands at 224.
Non-playing opportunities are rising too, with noteworthy appointments made in refereeing and coaching ranks: Hollie Davidson, a full-time referee, officiated at the Rugby World Cup Sevens and the Commonwealth Games after completing her first season with the sport’s governing body.
Likewise, former Scotland internationals Claire Cruikshank and Louise Dalgleish now coach the nascent Scottish Futures age-grade sides.
Scottish Rugby Head of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby Gemma Fay underlined that “the amazing example set by our contracted players, top-level coaches and referees have really shone a spotlight on the women’s game…things are beginning to take off”.