Interview: Globetrotter Fiona is enjoying her fascinating rugby journey and buzzing to be at Wasps

By Gary Heatly

Fiona Cooper made a big decision 10 months ago or so to move from Edinburgh and playing for Corstorphine Cougars to a new adventure in London with an exciting job and a chance to play Allianz Premier 15s rugby.

They say in life you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone at times to reap the benefits and Fiona, now 26, has never been scared of trying something new having previously lived – and played rugby – in New Zealand and America.

And her latest move has been a great one for her off and on the rugby pitch.

Off it, she has a job as knowledge manager at Laureus – a charity that celebrates sporting excellence and uses the power of sport to transform the lives of children and young people – that she loves.

And on it, she has been starting regularly and performing well for Wasps from No.8, taking on international players week in and week out in one of the strongest club leagues in the world.

“There was no doubt it was a big move and a big decision for me,” Fiona said.

“Laureus is a charity that I have known about and admired for a long time. I was enjoying my life up in Scotland, but they were one of the few charities who I had job alerts set up for and when the opportunity came to join them it was one that I could not turn down.

“I am so passionate about what they do and their values align well to mine, so it was a good fit.

“When I first moved down I wanted to get settled with my job and living in London first before continuing to play rugby, but I made contact with Giselle Mather soon after [then at Wasps and now at Ealing Trailfinders] and the club sounded like a good fit for me.

“By the time I headed down to training and joined the club Giselle had left and then the overall club had its well-documented problems which meant that the men’s team were taken out of the Premiership, but the girls and the coaches at Wasps were brilliant from day one.

“I really enjoyed the environment early on and felt like I was learning as a player with every session. The season has been tough [they have lost 10 out of 10], but the team spirit and togetherness is excellent while we have had brilliant support from Wasps FC and I have had a lot of game time which has helped my progress.”

It remains to be seen if Fiona’s form gets her a call up to the wider Scotland training squad for the upcoming TikTok Women’s Six Nations, but she will certainly be in the mix.

That is for the future though, first let’s find out how Fiona got to this point…

“It was like love at first sight”: Taster sessions at local club began rugby journey

Fiona, then a student at Bell Baxter High School in Cupar, first took up rugby when she was about 16 and local club Howe of Fife started taster sessions for girls.

“At the start there were usually only eight of us or so at training, but it was really fun and it was a sport I took to right away, it was like love at first sight,” Fiona, who grew up with Scotland cap Nicola Howat, joked.

“From that there was the opportunity to get involved in Tayside & Fife under-18s rugby and things seemed to move quite quickly and before I knew it I was playing my first full XVs match at a Scotland under-18 training camp.

“Prior to that I had played hockey, netball and athletics at school and I was playing badminton to a decent [Scottish schools] level, but I think it was my PE teacher who said I’d enjoy rugby and I’m glad I gave it a go.”

From Bell Baxter, Fiona moved on the University of St Andrews to study for an undergraduate degree in international relations.

One of her first rugby matches at university was down in London in the Varsity clash with Edinburgh University while St Andrews coach Gary Anderson played a big part in her time there over the next few years.

During her time at university she also turned out for Howe of Fife seniors.

A call up to the Scotland under-20s squad came at that time as did a first ever call up to the wider national team training squad before Fiona headed abroad a part of her St Andrews course to study at the University of Auckland.

“It was a steep learning curve, but it helped massively”: Time spent training with Black Ferns caps

While she was in New Zealand she played at Ponsonby Rugby Club and it was certainly an education that helped learn a lot about playing in the forwards.

“When I said I was a forward at first, some of them laughed because I was so small, but they took me under their wing,” Fiona recounted about her introduction to life at Ponsonby.

“They had six Black Ferns in their pack and that certainly made training interesting, I had to learn and learn pretty fast!

“It was a steep learning curve, but it helped massively. I started to go to the gym more, took my training a bit more seriously and it showed me the standards I had to try and reach.

“Sadly, when I was out there I only played a couple of games before I broke my collarbone and it was quite a long rehab.”

Back in Scotland and fully fit again, Fiona played in an East versus West match at the Oriam and that earned her a place in the Scottish Rugby pathways programme while she was completing her final year in St Andrews.

After graduating, Fiona then headed to Emory University in Atlanta, America, after she was awarded the Robert T Jones Memorial Fellowship.

That allowed her to study for a master’s degree in development practice for two years and, obviously, it meant she had to step out of the pathways programme.

“The degree was great and really channelled what I wanted to do with my career, for sure,” she said.

“I had fallen out of love with rugby a bit at that point, but I found Atlanta Harlequins and their coach Bex [Martin] and I’m so glad I did because I began to enjoy my rugby and being around a squad again. Since then Bex has become a great sounding board for me and a great friend.

“The rugby there was different than in New Zealand, but there were some great athletes at the club and it was a good time for me.

“The culture in the team I was in was excellent and Bex is a great ‘people person’, she always had time for all the players.”

During the summer of 2019 while she was in America, Fiona also travelled to Lao PDR in Asia for 10 weeks.

It was part of her master’s and she was there with ChildFund Sport for Development [whose partnerships provide children with opportunities to play, learn and lead].

Fiona conducted research on girls’ participation in the game and helped organise the Asia Rugby under-20s Sevens.

It was the first time Lao had hosted an Asia Rugby tournament and helped them on their journey to getting World Rugby status.

Just as she was coming to the end of her time in Atlanta, the pandemic hit in March 2020 and, soon after finishing her course, Fiona was heading back to Scotland that summer.

London calling: “I’m really loving life on and off the pitch just now”

Back at her family home in Freuchie in Fife, Fiona had to make do with training on her own during various lockdowns while she kept up her CrossFit that she had begun in America.

She then got in touch with her old Scotland under-20s team mate Lucy Park and, from there, was soon joining her at Tennent’s Premiership club Corstorphine Cougars.

Fiona would commute to training from Freuchie into Edinburgh and, once competitive rugby returned for the 2021/22 season, she was a regular at No.8 for the Union Park club and was living in the capital.

Consistent performances led to an opportunity to train with the wider Scotland squad again, but Fiona decided to focus on getting a run of games at club level in an improving team.

At the Cougars she met head coach Eric Jones and she has built up a good relationship with him.

“We had known each other from my time in the under-20s and like Bex at Atlanta, Eric has a lot of time for the person and not just the rugby player,” Fiona, who over the years has also done a bit of coaching herself at St Andrews and Edinburgh Napier University, said.

“That is the kind of coach I react to and the kind of coach who helps me get the best out of myself.

“I had a great time with the Cougars and learnt from the great coaching team and some of the best players in the game like [ex-Scotland cap] Tanya Griffith. That’s where I really understood what performance levels were required and what passion meant. When I was about to move from my role at Sported [a charity promoting fairness and equity for young people through grassroots sport and physical activity] to London and Laureus I talked to Eric a lot.

“At the time I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to play in the Allianz Premier 15s, but he gave me the confidence to give it a go once I was settled down south.

“I’m so grateful for that and I’m really loving life on and off the pitch right now.”

To help Fiona and Wasps Women with accommodation and travel costs for the remainder of the season, visit

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

Thanks to Fiona herself, Rugby People and Wasps/David Howlett for the photos featured here