WXV 2 build up: New Tiger Eva Donaldson ready to roar with club and country

Gary Heatly

There are a number of exciting young players coming through in the Scotland women’s ranks at the moment and one of them is second-row Eva Donaldson.

Donaldson only turned 22 in July, but she has been in and around the international set up for a while now and made her debut in the Rugby World Cup qualifier in Dubai against Colombia in early 2022.

She then had to bide her time, but caps two, three, four, five and six all came off the bench during the TikTok Women’s Six Nations and she made an impact during her short periods on the pitch in all of those outings.

Now having joined new Premiership Women’s Rugby outfit Leicester Tigers ahead of the 2023/24 campaign alongside fellow Scotland caps Leah Bartlett, Elis Martin, Evie Wills and Francesca McGhie, she is looking forward to kicking on at club level – and with Scotland.

And, for now, Scotland is the focus because Donaldson is part of a 32-strong extended training squad that is building up to a match against Spain at Hive Stadium in Edinburgh on September 30 and then the new WXV 2 tournament in South Africa in October.

“It is great to be back in camp with the Scotland girls just now, when we all got back it was like the first day of a new school year, everyone had stories to tell,” Donaldson said.

“We all really enjoyed the Six Nations and felt we made good strides as a squad, particularly in the wins over Italy and Ireland. We feel that we have a good platform to build from while, personally, I want to try and build on the time I had off the bench during that tournament and take it forward and continue to push for a place in the 15 or the 23.

“I think that joining Leicester Tigers will help me do that too because already in the few weeks that I have been down there I have learnt so much and I want to push myself to get better for club and country.

“There are great players and coaches for me to work with in both environments, so I will just keep on learning from everyone around me and go from there.”

It is around two years ago that Donaldson was first brought into a Scotland squad for a group of competitive matches.

“I was called up to the squad for the Rugby World Cup Europe qualifying event in 2021 and although I did not get on the pitch in any of the games it was really good to be a part of it,” Donaldson explained.

“During the last game against Ireland that we needed to win and that went right to the wire, myself and Evie Wills couldn’t sit still in the stand and were cheering the girls on – we are both quite loud! – it was nerve-wracking.

“When Sarah Law kicked the winning conversion I think my jaw did actually hit the ground for a split second before we ran onto the pitch and began to celebrate.

“That moment showed me how much it meant to everyone to play for Scotland and I was more determined than ever to do that myself after that trip.”

And a few months later that determination paid off when she came off the bench in Dubai to replace Louise McMillan and become Scotland cap number 228 as the team defeated Colombia 59-3 and get Scotland to their first World Cup in 12 years.

“That whole day was a bit of a whirlwind really, as was the next day because we had flown back to Scotland quickly and were on the pitch at half-time of the men’s Six Nations match against France in front of 67,000 or so people at Murrayfield,” Donaldson recounted.

“It was all a bit surreal, but we had achieved the goal of making the World Cup and I’d played a part in it, so it was a special time for me and my family.”

Highs and lows are part of top-level sport and Donaldson, who started out as a back-row and has progressed into a dynamic second-row now, missed out on World Cup squad selection later that year.

However, when Eilidh Sinclair went down injured in the opening Pool match in New Zealand versus Wales, Donaldson was suddenly receiving a phone call and was flying out solo to the other side of the world as a replacement.

“It was another whirlwind,” Donaldson laughed.

“I arrived a day before the second game against Australia and was in Auckland, but I made it up to Whangarei for the match and it was great to see the girls after it even though it had been another tough defeat.

“Watching the team then play New Zealand in New Zealand is something I’ll never forget either and I have memories from that trip that will last a lifetime.”

The trip also gave Donaldson the hunger to get into more matchday squads and 2023 has been excellent for her so far, so it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of it goes.

So, how did Donaldson’s rugby journey begin?

Well, when she was a pupil at McLaren High School in Callander the PE teacher took a few taster sessions for girls and then encouraged her and her friends to go down to a local club and keep their rugby going.

“I ended up heading along to Stirling County and it was one of the best decisions I have made, playing there was great fun from the early training sessions and I was hooked on rugby after that,” Donaldson said.

“There was such a good group of girls there, everyone really enjoyed it and we had good numbers which meant that all training sessions and all matches were meaningful.

“The coaches there then introduced a girls performance programme for some of us and that was my first exposure to what it would be like to be an athlete at a higher level.

“We were going to the gym three times a week before school and training three times a week after school, but we loved it so much we never felt tired at that age!

“I played under-15s and 18s for County and during my time there I was involved in the Scotland under-18 sevens set up for two years.

“That was a step up for me, but it was good and coming together with players from other clubs and playing with players who had different styles.”

During that age-grade Scotland sevens involvement Donaldson had worked with Claire Cruikshank for the first time and it made the decision to go to the University of Edinburgh – where the latter heads up the women’s rugby programme – all the more easy in the summer of 2019 post-school.

Over the last four years Donaldson completed three years of a sport and recreation management degree and played a high level of university rugby in BUCS competitions and such like.

And because a large number of the current Scotland squad came through the same system they were able to help each other out when it came to trying to balance university work and rugby commitments.

“When I was at university I was invited along to Tuesday and Thursday evening Scotland sessions for the first time and that was a bit of a shock, but it was great to get exposure to that environment,” Donaldson said.

“I was only a few sessions into that set up when Bryan [Easson, the head coach] told everyone that the Rugby World Cup was to be delayed due to the pandemic.

In hindsight, that worked out quite well for a batch of younger players because we were able to get more experience under our belts before New Zealand came around late last year.”

Scotland extended training squad:


Leah Bartlett (Leicester Tigers)

Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning)

Sarah Bonar (Harlequins)

Elliann Clarke (Bristol Bears)

Lisa Cockburn (University of Worcester Warriors)

Eva Donaldson (Leicester Tigers)

Evie Gallagher (University of Worcester Warriors)

Jade Konkel (Harlequins)

Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning, C)

Elis Martin (Leicester Tigers)

Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks)

Louise McMillan (Saracens)

Lana Skeldon (University of Worcester Warriors)

Nikki Simpson (Garioch)

Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning)

Anne Young (Sale Sharks)


Beth Blacklock (Saracens)

Shona Campbell (GB Sevens)

Coreen Grant (Saracens)

Caity Mattinson (University of Worcester Warriors)

Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning)

Mairi McDonald (Exeter Chiefs)

Francesca McGhie (Leicester Tigers)

Holly McIntyre (University of Edinburgh)

Rhona Lloyd (GB Sevens/Les Lionnes du Stade Bordelais)

Liz Musgrove (Ealing Trailfinders)

Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning,V-C)

Emma Orr (Heriots/Biggar)

Chloe Rollie (Loughborough Lightning)

Eilidh Sinclair (Exeter Chiefs)

Meryl Smith (Bristol Bears)

Lisa Thomson (GB Sevens)

Match tickets are on sale now for the Spain Test at Hive Stadium on September 30 at 5.45pm, click here to secure some…

Keep an eye out on GH Media’s channels for Scotland women’s coverage up to and through to the end of WXV 2 in October…

Eva Donaldson is pictured by Rugby People and Scottish Rugby/Jim Parsons