Scotland v Colombia: Louise McMillan cried after her debut in 2016 – now she wants smiles on Friday to make her family proud

By Gary Heatly

When Louise McMillan made her full Scotland debut back in November 2016 she was just 19 and admits to feeling like a “deer in the headlights”.

Having come through the youth ranks at the Birkmyre club and then burst onto the senior scene with Hillhead/Jordanhill, the back-row – who can now also cover second-row – was given a baptism of fire in the two legged World Cup 2017 qualification play-off with Spain which the Scots ultimately lost.

“I was very lucky my first cap was at Scotstoun,” Louise, now 24 and with 30 international outings under her belt, recounts.

“I just remember almost being like a deer in the headlights, honestly, I was 19-years-old and there was just so much happening. I don’t think I understood what it meant to go to a World Cup at that stage and I was surrounded by a group of girls who really did want to go.

“If I’m honest it was just overwhelming, the whole experience was, I remember just crying to my parents afterwards and I didn’t know if it was because we’d just lost or because I’d just got my first cap and my whole family were there. It was just overwhelming, the emotions were so real.”

Before that day – and since – her family have been right behind Louise all the way and one of her career highlights was earning Scotland honours in the same squad as older sister Siobhan.

The front-rower is not in the current squad that is out in Dubai preparing for Friday’s final World Cup qualifier with Colombia, but Louise has said before that Siobhan “is the most supportive sister”.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that this week isn’t just about the girls that are here,” Louise, who has also played sevens for her country, said.

“This is a complete squad effort and it’s also about the girls that went before us. It’s all fed into this one moment and we’re so excited to represent all of those girls.

“I definitely feel like I’ve grown up with this team. They’ve seen me go through all my stages.

“I am also excited to represent Siobhan and the rest of my family because they have been my biggest supporters and are always there for me.”

Scotland, ninth in the world, will start Friday’s match as favourites against a Colombia side up to 25th in the new rankings with the victors heading to New Zealand for the big one in October and November.

“One of our biggest fears is getting complacent. We’ve spoken about that a lot, but we’re here to do a job and we’re not getting carried away,” Louise, who finished her studies in law at Glasgow University in 2020, explains.

“We know it’s 80 minutes of rugby, it’s going to be the biggest 80 minutes of our lives and we’ll take absolutely nothing for granted. We’re prepping for this like any other game.

“The win over Ireland at the European qualifiers last year really instilled a sense of belief. I know how good the girls in this squad are as rugby players and in that moment I think we proved to other people how good we are, but that definitely wasn’t job finished and we’re pushing on.”

“There’s a great energy around the camp. I’ve always known how hard this team works, sometimes it feels like your hard work doesn’t pay off but it’s nice to see other people appreciating the hard work now.”

The Scotland versus Columbia final World Cup qualifier (kick-off 7pm local time, 3pm UK time) will be live on BBC ALBA and World Rugby’s YouTube channel on Friday, February 25

Louise McMillan is pictured with her sister Siobhan when they played for Scotland together