Interview: Anne impressing as the prop swims with the Sharks – and she is hoping to make a splash during the rest of 2023

By Gary Heatly

Anne Young turns 23 this month and having been in good recent form for Sale Sharks her birthday present may well be a call-up to the Scotland TikTok Women’s Six Nations squad which will be named soon.

Having started her rugby life at local club Helensburgh, Anne has since progressed to the Allianz Premier 15s and a Scottish Rugby contract via Hillhead Jordanhill and the University of Edinburgh.

In 2021 she was first capped for her country on the same day as Shona Campbell, soon after other exciting young players Evie Gallagher and Evie Wills had earned honours at that level.

And their rise to the top gave confidence to the likes of Emma Orr, Elliann Clarke and Elis Martin to follow them into the international arena.

All of which means there is now a batch of up-and-coming players really pushing the more experienced ones in the national team set-up – and that can only be a good thing going forward.

“Whenever I am in Scotland camps I feel like I am learning and getting better and there are really experienced players and coaches around me helping me out,” loosehead prop Anne said.

“I think having been to a World Cup – and now being able to focus on my rugby thanks to Scottish Rugby and Sale Sharks – is helping me grow as a prop and I’m looking forward to the months ahead.

“As a prop you are always learning and I am still young for the position, so I will just keep taking each game as it comes and go from there, but these are exciting times for the women’s game globally and I feel privileged to be a part of it.”

“I enjoyed it from day one”: Anne’s early rugby years

Anne and her twin sister Eleanor were born in Hertfordshire in England in early 2000, but both her parents – Andrea and James – are Scottish and the family moved to Helensburgh when the duo were around 18-months-old.

Rugby came into Anne’s life when she was around 10 when she and her sister went along to the Helensburgh Minis with their neighbours.

She played there for a couple of years and then, once a pupil at the local Hermitage Academy secondary school, she wanted to keep rugby going.

“I joined Hillhead Jordanhill because they had a good youth set-up for girls and I started to get the train up to Glasgow for training and matches,” she said.

“Before that I had tried lots of sports, but my Dad and the rest of the family were really into rugby and I just enjoyed it from day one, I felt like I could be myself within the sport.

“I liked the hand-eye co-ordination aspect, the contact aspect and the team aspect.

“It was quite daunting to go to Hills at first, I had to get the train there after school each week by myself and I wasn’t sure if it was for me as I didn’t really know anyone, but my Mum made me stick it out until Christmas of the first year and I’m so glad she did.

“I started to really enjoy it as we began playing more games. With the under-15s there we were playing in a league and in competitive fixtures regularly and that is the best way to learn.”

With netball nearer home also on Anne’s agenda, as she moved through her teenage years and into exam time rugby did get put on the backburner a bit, but as soon as she had more time then the sport was in the forefront of things again.

Trips to BT Murrayfield soon came with Hills under-18s for national finals with a loss against Stirling County being tempered by a victory over Murrayfield Wanderers – and Anne would be back at the national stadium sooner than she imagined.

“I was just finishing school in 2018 and had only played a couple of senior games when I was selected in the Hillhead Jordanhill matchday squad for the Sarah Beaney Cup final,” Anne, who had played a number of positions for the under-18s, but was beginning to settle into the front-row by then, recounts.

“It was a bit unexpected, but it was a big vote of confidence for me and my game and to win another trophy at Murrayfield [they won 68-12 versus Watsonians] was a great feeling.

“After that and school I was always keen to go to the University of Edinburgh because it is a good uni and my Mum works there too, but rugby also played a big part in my decision.

“The rugby programme there is excellent, my friend Elis Martin told me it would be a good place to be and I felt I could take my game on to the next level if I went there.”

These days Anne can look back on her four years at the university between 2018 and 2022 – when she earned an undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology and Politics and became a key part of the first XV rugby squad – with great fondness, but it got off to a tough start.

“I broke my collarbone in my first match for the uni and that was a bit unlucky,” Anne said.

“That basically put me out for my whole of first year [2018/19] and at the time I was very frustrated, but my friends and team mates rallied round me and, looking back, the time in the gym and becoming a bit more robust while I couldn’t play really helped me going forward.

“In my second year [2019/20] we were heading to the [BUCS Championship final] when the pandemic hit and, from then on, my uni rugby career was a bit ‘stop-start’ because of things that were going on in the world.

“My final season [2021/22] was a good one though and without a doubt the programme there helped me become a more confident player and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

“I couldn’t believe it”: South Africa tour aged 19

It was in August/September 2019 when Anne, still just 19 at the time, was first brought into a Scotland training camp having impressed then head coach Philip Doyle when he’d been keeping a close eye on the under-20s.

“I thought I’d just be gaining some experience at training, but then I was named in the squad to travel to South Africa and I couldn’t believe it,” Anne said.

“On that trip I did not play, but just to be in such an amazing country with the full Scotland squad was a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment and I just tried to enjoy it and take it all in.

“I was then in and around the squad after that before missing out on selection for the World Cup qualifiers in Italy [in the summer of 2021].

“That was tough and there were some highs and lows around that time, but when I made my debut off the bench against Japan that November it was a great feeling.

“It was at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh and my Mum and Dad were there, my twin sister was there and my old Minis coach was there with his family and there were lots of other family friends and my friends there, so it was brilliant and a bit of a blur to be honest!

“I was presented my cap on the side of the pitch in front of everyone, so that was a special moment, especially for my parents who had helped me a lot to get to that point.”

In 2022 Anne was part of the wider squad that qualified for – and then went to – the World Cup in New Zealand and, in between, earned her second cap against Wales in the Six Nations in Cardiff.

After the World Cup late last year, she was one of 28 players awarded contracts by Scottish Rugby and since then she has been playing for Sale in the English top flight and is living in a flat with Scotland team mates Molly Wright and Rachel McLachlan.

“I am really enjoying my time at Sale,” Anne, who scored a try recently versus Loughborough Lightning and their band of Scots, said.

“The rugby side of things in a new environment has tested me in a good way and the coaches and the girls down here are excellent and very welcoming.

“It’s also great living with Molly and Rach and we enjoy talking about rugby as well as switching off from it completely with many coffees and brunches!

“I feel in a good place at the moment and I’m happy.”

Keep an eye out for lots of Scottish women’s rugby content on this site over the next few months…

Thanks to Anne herself for the photos featured here