Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm has hailed “a new era begins” – and hopes her squad’s trophy success at the WXV 2 tournament in South Africa will make people sit up, take note and then they will get the support they deserve.
After a dramatic final day on Saturday in Cape Town in the second tier World Rugby-run event when Italy beat USA 30-8 but fell short on points difference to give Scotland the title, Malcolm and her team mates rightly celebrated.
Following a 12-match losing streak in 2022 and earlier this year, the turnaround to win six Tests on the spin – including three in this tournament – has been impressive.
Late last year 28 female players were given full-time contracts by Scottish Rugby and that has certainly made a difference, but back-rower Malcolm wants more strides to be made.
“I think it’s been pretty incredible to watch the growth of this squad, every individual has improved and I think the depth that we have in every single position now is testament to that,” the 32-year-old said.
“These are exciting times for us and for women’s rugby in our country, but it’s tough playing women’s sport – and especially women’s sport in Scotland – because not a lot of people believe in you and a lot of the time we are forgotten about.
“This squad of players and the management team have never stopped fighting, even when we didn’t have the support and when we didn’t have eyes on us.
“And hopefully we’ve proved over these last three weeks that we deserve the support. We are not fighting for just the 30 players who have been in South Africa, we are fighting for change within Scotland women’s rugby and we want to change the future for the girls that are going to come next.
“We hope we have proven that we deserve more and we are so ambitious to keep pushing forward to make the future even brighter.
“Now we want to push on and hopefully people will start listening and we’ll get the support we deserve.”
Belief and the ever-increasing strength of the bench and the players out with the starting XV – as well as a number of other factors – have played a big part in recent successes which see Scotland now up to eighth in the world rankings.
“A number of different things have contributed,” Malcolm added.
“We have been through tough times. We said at half-time on Friday [versus Japan] that if any team could turn it around in the second half it’s us because of the experiences we’ve had over the last three years in terms of tight games that maybe haven’t gone our way.
“We’ve reflected on those and learned from them, but also the support that we’ve had in terms of sports psychology and the focus on controlling what we can control – that has been a massive focus for us in terms of those periods and purple patches that you see within a game.
“And there’s the leadership group. It’s not just myself – I’m supported by an incredible group of leaders on that pitch, which really helps us to work together and make good decisions in those tough times.
“There’s a real feel of belief and in terms of the bench, I probably couldn’t do the bench and the wider squad justice right now. The way that the full squad has committed to what we wanted to achieve out here [in South Africa] has been nothing short of incredible.
“We’ve talked from minute one of this trip about it being a 30-man squad. We’ve said from minute one that there’s absolutely no way we can achieve three wins and potentially a trophy without 30 players putting everything into that cause.
“There are some players who have come all the way out here and not played a minute of rugby. But there’s never been one situation where there’s been any attitude or someone has not been completely committed to our cause.
“Every single week those non-23 players have taken a huge amount of time to learn the plays of the opposition and run as our opposition in training to try and make us the best that we can be to compete on a matchday.
“I cannot explain the incredible people that we have within this squad, it takes a huge amount of character to take that level of disappointment each week and do everything you can for the people playing to be where we are.
“We absolutely could not achieve what we have done at this tournament without them.”
The squad were beginning their trip home on Monday and get back on Tuesday. Sarah Bonar missed the trophy presentation on Saturday as she had already begun her onwards journey.
And, in general, it’ll certainly be interesting to see where this journey goes next…
Keep an eye out on GH Media’s channels for Scotland women’s coverage through to the end of WXV 2 in October…
Thanks to World Rugby for the image of the Scotland squad celebrating