From rowing boat to the second-row: Sarah’s journey

Sarah Bonar used to have an Olympic rowing dream, but now she is fully focused on helping Scotland’s rugby team do well in the Women’s Six Nations.

The Scots get their tournament underway in Dublin on Sunday afternoon and Loughborough Lightning second-row Sarah, 25, will be key to the outcome.

She will be earning her 21st cap at this level and has formed a good partnership in the ‘boiler house’ with Emma Wassell over the last couple of years.

Her sporting journey could have been so different though.

“I took to rugby quite late in the day,” the Aberdeen-born athlete who only began playing rugby in 2014 stated.

“I used to row for GB juniors and then the under-23s and it wasn’t until my final year at uni [at Loughborough where she studied geography] that I found myself in a bit of a hole with rowing.

“I loved competing, but I hated the individuality of the sport, and it was Nolli [England cap Danielle Waterman] who said ‘Bonz, you should try rugby’.

“So I did on a break from rowing to see if I missed it or if I’d like rugby and I was like, ‘wow, this sport’s amazing’ and I never looked back.

“I grew up with an Olympic dream, that was always my goal, but I hated the process, and I got so miserable with the training. I’m quite an extrovert, happy and bubbly, and that sort of started to disappear a bit.

“Even if I had stuck in with rowing, you need that extra 10 percent that comes from the love and passion for the sport.

“If I had made it who knows, but for me there was a real point when I thought ‘no, I’m going for my rugby’.

“In rugby there’s a lot of camaraderie on and off the pitch. I’ve never played a sport where your team mates have your back so much because it is so physical.

“And the thing I love about rugby is there’s a position for everybody – you’ve got different shapes and sizes and we need them all. That’s probably what makes that team aspect of it so tight, something you don’t really get with other sports.”

Her decision to stick with rugby has been Scotland’s gain, Sarah ever-improving as a player since her international debut in 2016 against Spain.

Having played in the win over Ireland in Dublin two years ago, she is now keen to savour that feeling again.

“Physicality, we know that the Irish are going to bring that all day long, so we need to shut that down and take it to them,” the geography teacher said,.

“We need to not get too focused on them, we want to focus on our own game, bring intensity and bring our style of play to things as well.”

Scotland Women’s team to face Ireland on Sunday at Energia Park, Donnybrook, Dublin (kick-off 1pm – live on BBC Alba):

15 Chloe Rollie (Harlequins)

14 Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough Lightning)

13 Hannah Smith (Watsonians)

12 Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park)

11 Megan Gaffney (Watsonians)

10 Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning)

9 Mairi McDonald (Hillhead/Jordanhill)

1 Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning)

2 Lana Skeldon (Darlington Mowden Park)

3 Mairi Forsyth (Corstorphine Cougars)

4 Emma Wassell (Corstorphine Cougars)

5 Sarah Bonar (Loughborough Lightning)

6 Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning, C)

7 Rachel McLachlan (Darlington Mowden Park)

8 Jade Konkel (Harlequins)


16 Molly Wright (Watsonians)

17 Panashe Muzambe (Edinburgh University/Watsonians)

18 Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park)

19 Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County)

20 Louise McMillan (Hillhead/Jordanhill)

21 Sarah Law (Darlington Mowden Park)

22 Evie Tonkin (Darlington Mowden Park)

23 Alex Wallace (Harrogate)

Thanks to Sarah Bonar and Scottish Rugby/SNS for the main photos

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