Women’s 6N: ‘Alexa, who is a rising star?’ – ‘Exceptional tackle stats topper Alex Stewart is a rising star’

Gary Heatly

Over the last three seasons three young Scotland players have made big breakthroughs during the Six Nations.

In 2022, it was centre Emma Orr, in 2023 it was winger Francesca McGhie and this year it was back-row Alex Stewart.

While her good form for club and Edinburgh Rugby rightly saw the 19-year-old Corstorphine Cougars player picked in the wider training squad before the Guinness Women’s Six Nations, few could have envisaged her starting the first game in Cardiff and then starting every other game from then on as the Scots finished fourth.

She has gone toe-to-toe with some brilliant back-rowers in recent weeks and never looked phased once.

In that first game versus Wales – a 20-18 win – she made 17 successful tackles during the match, topped the stats by arriving at 27 attacking breakdowns and made more ruck cleanouts than anyone else with 10.

After that first appearance when she became Scotland cap 236, head coach Bryan Easson said:  “Alex was excellent, you just wouldn’t think she has only been around the squad for four weeks.

“Genuinely she played well above the levels that she has done before, but they are the levels that we know she can get to, she really was excellent and she has a big future.”

Assistant coach Tyrone Holmes said after the same match:  “Alex was unreal versus Wales.

“It is not often you get someone in their first cap and in such a big game like that stepping up. She is a special rugby player, she is coachable, she is great around the group and she plays with a lot of heart.

“She has a big future ahead of her.”

And, while presenting Stewart’s cap that weekend, captain Rachel Malcolm said:  “I just want to say I think you have been phenomenal, you have been in with the group now for four weeks and you’d think you had been here four years.

“You have shown maturity well beyond your – very small! – years and you were outstanding in the match.

“You could not tell that you had not played at this level before, you were everywhere on the pitch and it is an honour to present you with the first cap of which I am sure will be very many.”

Stewart, an Edinburgh University law student, who came through the ranks at Liberton High School, Lismore and Edinburgh Harlequins, certainly did not let that praise go to her head.

But she did keep working hard and made the number seven jersey her own even when Rachel McLachlan returned from injury.

She has now played versus Wales, England, France, Italy and Ireland before she turns 20 later this month and – along with Welsh back-rower Alex Callender – made a tournament-topping 74 tackles, the sky really is the limit for Stewart.

At the end of the tournament in which Scotland won two matches and lost three, Easson stated:  “Alex has exceptional from start to finish. She’s doing a law degree so we’ve been working behind the scenes around how we manage that. Our sports science department and our medics have made sure she hasn’t done everything, not just from a physical point of view, but also mentally, it can be tough. She has been really good.

“Her performances on the pitch have been excellent. Her ability to get back on the line, her work on the floor, in many areas she has been brilliant. Rachel McLachlan is the most competitive person in the group and they’ve been battling hard for that number seven shirt and that’s what we want.

“It has been great to see her come in and do what she’s done, she should be very proud.”

Thanks to N50 Photography for the image of Alex Stewart

During the Guinness Women’s Six Nations period through to early May, GH Media will be covering all aspects of women’s rugby in Scotland via reports, features and interviews…

Thanks to those who have made this possible and if any companies/individuals are keen to support this work too, please email gary@gh-media.co.uk