Interview: Megan looks back on her international career and ahead to a bright future off the pitch

 By Gary Heatly

When the TikTok Women’s Six Nations kicks off this weekend it will be strange not to see Megan Gaffney involved in Scotland colours.

She made her international debut in late 2011 and since 2013 she has been a mainstay of the Scotland squad that has attacked each Six Nations competition.

However, last month after earning 45 XVs caps and playing a lot for Scotland Sevens over the years – including in Hong Kong and at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 – Megan decided to call time on her stellar rugby career at the top level.

When Megan, who has mainly played on the wing over the years and is now 31, made the decision public on social media she was “surprised and humbled” by the positive messages she received in reply.

“I didn’t think it was going to be that big a deal, I am not a big social media user and I kept the message short and sweet [Thanks for the memories @scotlandteam, it’s been a pleasure], but I guess I underestimated how many people had been following my career,” she said.

“It was really nice to read all of the positive messages from people that I know and others that I don’t and it was really quite humbling. It’s nice to know I have made an impact.

“In terms of the timing, well it just felt right for me. To go out on the high of a Rugby World Cup in New Zealand late last year after being at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham a few months before felt like a good time to bring to an end a period of my life that I have loved.

“I have had so many good times in a Scotland shirt and made so many friends and memories over the last decade and a bit, but there’s lots of other things I want to channel my energy into going forward and I’ll look back with no regrets.”

“I found it so enjoyable and always liked the contact element to it”

 Megan’s rugby journey began in the Minis at local club North Berwick when she was six.

She really enjoyed her time in the Minis, but then stepped back from rugby in her early years of high school because there was no girls rugby available locally.

“Then a teacher called Suzanne Ritchie started girls rugby at North Berwick High School,” Megan, who scored two tries versus Wales in the recent World Cup, explains.

“I was around 14 at that point and I got back into rugby now. I had always loved rugby, but I was one of those kids who tried every sport.

“However, once rugby came back into my life I was keen to keep it going because I found it so enjoyable and always liked the contact element to it.

“After school I worked in a café in North Berwick for a while so that I could save up to go interrailing the following summer. In terms of rugby, it was my first year of senior rugby, so I was surprised to get a call-up to the Scotland ‘A’ squad and it was a big step up for me.

“Being in that set-up meant that I had access to gym sessions and skills sessions and that focus on rugby definitely helped me take things forward.

“I was playing club rugby at the time for Murrayfield Wanderers and, the following year, when I began studying at Glasgow University for a physiology and sports science degree I continued to travel back to Edinburgh to play for Wandies because I felt comfortable in that environment. That went on for a couple of years.”

By the time her third year at university came around Megan decided to play her club rugby for Hillhead Jordanhill and, by that time, she had already earned her first full Scotland XVs cap versus Netherlands.

“The programme was so different then and every player was working or studying outside of rugby, there were no contracts,” Megan recounts.

“We flew to the Netherlands on the Saturday morning, trained on the Saturday afternoon, played on the Sunday morning and then came back Sunday evening and I went back to the library to finish off a uni essay.

“So, it wasn’t like it is now with players used to playing in front of decent sized crowds and having time for recovery built into their week.

“I was then really proud to be part of the first Scotland Sevens squad a year later and the last few years with the XVs squad and the sevens squad have had their ups and downs for sure, but I have really enjoyed them.”

As well as Murrayfield Wanderers and Hillhead Jordanhill, Megan has played senior rugby on home turf for Glasgow University, the University of Edinburgh where she studied for a masters, Watsonians and Heriot’s Blues where she is now.

She also had a spell in Sweden with Enköping, a spell in New Zealand with Kia Toa and the Manawatu Cyclones and time in England with Loughborough Lightning.

“I am so thankful to my family and others who have picked me up at times and helped me get this far”

 Looking back on the last 18 months or so, Megan says she “achieved everything she wanted to”.

“It was the third World Cup cycle that I had been involved in, so it felt like now or never,” she said.

“There was part of me that thought I might never get to one, but when we beat Colombia in the final qualifier early last year it was a great feeling and to go from that to the Commy Games and then the World Cup in New Zealand left me in a pretty good place.

“I am so thankful to my family and others who have picked me up at times and helped me get this far.

“I also think Scotland going forward are in a really positive place.

“Rugby-wise, I’ll keep playing for Heriot’s in our Sarah Beaney Cup campaign then I aim to play social sevens in the summer before getting a shoulder operation.

“Wok-wise, I work for the School of Hard Knocks who are a social inclusion charity who use the values of rugby to help young people take positive steps forward while we also put on courses for unemployed adults.

“We look at things like team work, facing your fears, controlled contact and how to move forward. We place a really big emphasis on people who come on a course being part of a team and it is great to see people interacting and working together.

“I started with the charity three years ago and was helping delivering the adult courses whereas now I am focused on operations in the Edinburgh office.

“School of Hard Knocks does excellent work and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

To find out more about School of Hard Knocks, click here

Keep an eye out for lots of Scottish women’s rugby content on this site over the next few months…

The photos featured here are from Megan’s Instagram