Four familiar Borders faces have been selected by new head coach Philip Doyle for the Scotland Women’s Rugby squad which is soon to embark on its first tour of South Africa.
The trip, at the end of this month, will include two test matches against South Africa Women and will be the first matches under Doyle’s lead.
The squad features a mix of experienced Scotland Women players, as well as some new faces who will be looking to receive their first cap for the national side.
Back in the line-up are Jedburgh’s Chloe Rollie – who plays her first club game this weekend for her new outfit Harlequins – Mhairi Grieve from Selkirk and Hawick pair Lana Skeldon and Lisa Thomson.
All four figured in Scotland’s Six Nations campaign this year, while some were also involved in a string of outstanding Scottish perfomances as they finished runners-up to Brazil at the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifiers in Hong Kong, along with a top-five placing in the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Sevens Series, after tournaments in France and Ukraine.
All four players said they were delighted to be chosen for South Africa, with a new coach representing an element of the unknown as far as selections were concerned.
It was also a chance to get together and bond once more as a team, with the blend of familiar teammates and newcomers, while the fact they would be tasting the new experience of a tour also made it very exciting.
Lisa Thomson had previously captained the XVs team, although Loughborough Lightning’s Helen Nelson will be taking on the mantle of tour captain in South Africa, following a successful season as captain of the Scotland Women 7s squad.
Lisa said the removal of that layer of responsibility would allow her to focus more on her rugby and she wished her friend ‘Nellie’ well in the role.
Nelson will be joined in the squad by fellow Lightning players Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm, Rhona Lloyd and Jenny Maxwell.
A large Scottish based contingent has been named in the squad, with representatives from almost all clubs in the Tennent’s Premiership League. Watsonians players Hannah Smith and Megan Gaffney will be joined by local rivals Mairi Forsyth and Emma Wassell from Corstorphine Cougars.
Forwards Megan Kennedy, Panashe Muzambe and Louise McMillan from Stirling County, Edinburgh University and Hillhead Jordanhill respectively, will be looking to add to their cap count with these test matches.
There will be seven Darlington Mowden Park (DMP) representatives on the tour, including Lisa Thomson and Lisa Cockburn. They’ll be joined by new DMP Sharks players Liz Musgrove, Sarah Law, Rachel McLachlan, Abi Evans – and Lana Skeldon.
Experienced Scottish players in the squad, along with Chloe and Mhairi, include Jade Konkel and Jodie Rettie.
Three players have been introduced to the team – Canadian-born Christine Belisle from Cartha Queens Park has come to the Scotland Women set-up from the Scottish Qualified Programme, having played at Cartha for three years.
She will be joined by Scottish Futures players Sarah Denholm (Edinburgh University), who received two Scotland Women 7s caps over the summer and Anne Young from Edinburgh University.
Philip Doyle said of the selection: “I am really excited to see what this squad can produce in South Africa.
“We have had two very successful training camps, with large numbers of players involved.
“There are a lot experienced players who have not been selected for this tour. Selection has been tough and this is because of the increasing standards of all players. This can only bode well for the rest of the season and shows the depth we are able to add to the squad.”
Scotland Women will play two test matches in Cape Town against South Africa. The first will be on Monday, September 30 at 2pm (BST), followed by the second test on Saturday, October 5 at noon (BST).