Women’s 6N: Scotland prospect Holly McIntyre’s rehab is going well and she is “excited about the future”

Gary Heatly

Holly McIntyre’s recovery from a serious knee injury suffered just prior to WXV 2 last year is coming along nicely and the 21-year-old is feeling positive about the future and returning to rugby.

The Ayr product was one of three uncapped players – along with Demi Swann and Fi McIntosh who has since been capped – who were selected by Scotland head coach Bryan Easson to travel to South Africa with the squad for the event last October.

Edinburgh University centre McIntyre had impressed with the Futures and in training with the national squad that summer and was looking forward to pushing for a first full cap until injury hit.

“The pre-WXV 2 camps last year were great, I felt like I’d found my voice thanks to the Futures experience, I felt more mature by that point and I felt like I really had something to offer and was there for a reason with my game in good shape,” McIntyre said.

“There is a lot of competition for places with Scotland, but as a young player coming in that drives you on and you are encouraged to challenge for a spot.

“We had a four to five week block of training then we played Ireland in a training hit out in Largs.

“We then had a similar session at the Hive and while our backs were training versus the Wales backs, I went to make a break and tried to step the full-back and my knee totally went.

“I just kind of knew it was a bad one straight away, but I got up and walked off the pitch even though I was in some pain, so the physios were feeling pretty positive about it.

“I went into lunch telling everyone I would just be out for a couple of weeks and I’d still be able to make it to South Africa, but I was probably kidding myself.

“I had a scan later that day and then the results came in the following day and revealed the extent of the damage.

“It was my ACL and meniscus and I had to get my head around things quite quickly as I had my first consultation two weeks after that and then an operation two weeks after that.

“It was obviously gutting.

“I felt like I had deserved that opportunity and was really looking forward to going to South Africa, but in the bigger picture I think just being in the Scotland mix for me at that stage was a big confidence booster.

“I felt really good that I had made it up to those levels and those will be the levels I’ll be looking to get back to when I return to playing.

“I watched all the WXV 2 matches on TV from back home with my friends because I still felt part of things and all of the Scotland girls were really supportive and were sending me messages while they were out there and keeping me involved.

“Rehab is going really well and the Scottish Rugby academy physios and S & C coaches are helping me along.

“Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors were also really good at keeping me involved in different capacities during the Celtic Challenge.

“All being well I will be able to get back playing in October with uni rugby with the aim after that to build up to being involved in the Celtic Challenge 2024/25.

“My brother Jed previously tore his ACL through rugby too so he has been a big help in the down times while I have good family and friends around me and I have just been focusing on my studies [having changed courses since university started in 2020, McIntyre is nearing the end of third year of an interior design degree] and my rehab.”

“I have just always loved playing rugby”

McIntyre played lots of sports growing up, but always favoured rugby thanks in part to a dad who had previously played for Kilmarnock and her older brother.

“I started playing for the Ayr Minis at primary one age and went right through the Ayr youth set up so I have been involved in the sport most of my life,” McInyre explained.

“I was the only girl in my Minis team so was playing with and against the boys for seven years and went on tour with them. It had its ups and downs, but I stuck at it and I have just always loved playing rugby.

“When I was 11 [and started secondary school at Kyle Academy] I moved up to the girls section and I was playing in the under-15s team from then on, so I was pretty young and I remember having my 12th birthday at training and some of the other players being amazed how young I was!

“By the time I was 15 I was moved up into the under-18s and I played a couple of years with that team.”

While she was involved with the West regional under-16 set up, McIntyre broke her ankle and was out of the sport for over a year.

“Her first session back after that long-term injury was a Scotland under-18 sevens trial and while she found the fitness tests a struggle, her skills had not deserted here and pulled her through.

“That was a real turning point for me in terms of helping me take my rugby to the next level,” she stated.

“With that under-18 sevens squad went to Wales and Poland and the squad was amazing with the likes of [now Scotland caps] Meryl Smith, Evie Wills, Shona Campbell and others involved including my good friend from Ayr Cieron Bell [who recently was an unused sub for Scotland versus Ireland].”

After one game for Ayr Ladies at senior level, McIntyre had her sights set on Edinburgh University and, just after the pandemic had begun, she travelled east to study in the capital from Autumn 2020.

At this point McIntyre was still a scrum-half, the position she had grown up playing, and she was invited along by then Scotland Sevens head coach Scott Forrest to training sessions which meant that she could put in the work as an elite athlete while restrictions were still in place.

“That was really handy because it exposed me to a high level of training and allowed me to keep things ticking over and keep building,” McIntyre, who played for the Thistles in the first Celtic Challenge in 2022/23, said.

“In recent years I have loved being part of the Edinburgh University set up, the players and the coaches and being part of the culture has helped me really kick on and focus on my rugby.

“I moved to centre towards the end of the 2021/22 season and committed fully to it from 2022/23 after chats with [Edinburgh University’s head of performance rugby] Claire Cruikshank.

“Coaches had often said I’d be good there and that 13 was a better fit for me now I absolutely love it, I like the freedom of it and having space in the wide channels.

“From late 2021 onwards I had been involved in a few Scotland XVs camps and was 25th player versus Japan that year at the Hive [then called DAM Health Stadium].

“In the Spring of 2023 I captained the Futures versus England and Wales and then we had the trip to Italy and during that time I felt I made big step forward in personal development in terms of leadership.

“Then came the WXV 2 call up and everything that came with it, but I am working hard and excited about the future now.”

Holly McIntyre is pictured

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