Scotland v France: Rachel handed first cap as an early birthday present

Ahead of her first game for Scotland, Stirling County’s Rachel Shankland reflects on her rugby journey…


Hard work – and hard yards – go a long way to getting you where you want in life and Rachel Shankland certainly deserves her Scotland debut this Sunday.

The 28-year-old Stirling County player has been one of the standout performers in the domestic game for the last three or four years and when she turns 29 on Monday she will be an internationalist.

She has clearly impressed Scotland interim head coach Bryan Easson while she has been part of the wider squad between January and March and over the last month since lockdown restrictions eased slightly.

It will be a tough test for the Scots in their Six Nations clash in Glasgow, but the team – and Rachel – will want to put down a marker ahead of the trip to Wales next week and other big games to come in the remainder of 2020.

 “I started off playing rugby in my first year at Stirling Uni, before that I had never watched a game of rugby or touched a rugby ball so I was pretty new to it all at that point,” Rachel, who is originally from Cumnock and starts on the wing, said.

“It was a friend Debbie Falconer – who has since played for Scotland – who got asked along to training by a netball friend of hers and she asked me to go with her.

“I walked into it completely oblivious to what I was walking into, but I loved it from that first session and never looked back.

“I played at uni and then moved onto Stirling County where I have now been for the last few years.”

 “It has been a big leap”

Any time you go up a level in sport it takes time to get used to things, but Rachel is pleased with how she has adapted to the rigours of it all.

“Training at this level took quite a lot of getting used to, it has been a big leap, but it is a great challenge and I am really enjoying it,” she continued.

“I have made good strides in the last month to get up to the level required and I am proud of how far I have come, the real pride comes from telling friends and family that you are in the international mix, it feels good.

“For me it has been about getting to know the structures of this team and knowing my role, knowing how I fit into things and then getting the fine details nailed down.”

“It is about putting them on the back foot”

So, how do Rachel and co aim to stop the French juggernaut who have some strong ball carriers?

“We have been training really hard and it is about bringing that aggression and intensity into our game and putting them on the back foot,” Rachel, a social worker, said.

“As a group we have been talking a lot about our speed of play so we are really just focusing on that and coming into contact really hard so that they don’t get on the front foot.”

There are four changes from the starting XV that took on England way back in February, Hannah Smith, Megan Gaffney and Megan Kennedy coming in alongside Shankland.

Rachel Law may debut off the bench.

Scotland squad: Chloe Rollie; Rachel Shankland, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney; Helen Nelson, Mairi McDonald; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Megan Kennedy, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Jade Konkel. Subs: Molly Wright, Katie Dougan, Christine Belisle, Siobhan Cattigan, Louise McMillan, Rachel Law, Abi Evans, Annabel Sergeant.

Scotland v France takes place at Scotstoun on Sunday (2.20pm) and is live on BBC ALBA

Thanks to Bryan Robertson and Scottish Rugby/SNS for the images

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