IT IS the ultimate sibling rivalry. If Bridget Millar-Mills makes her rugby debut for Scotland against England, she won’t just be facing the Auld Enemy on the pitch – she’ll be facing her little sister.
Bridget, 23, and her 21-year-old sister Harriet, who has six caps for England, may be pitted against each other in the first match of the RBS Women’s Six Nations next weekend in an encounter that will test family loyalties – as well as rugby skills – to the limit.
Although siblings such as the Scottish Evans brothers – Max and Thom – have played for the same national side in the past, it is believed to be the first time two sisters have faced each other on opposing national rugby teams.
“It would be great to get my first cap for Scotland and it would be even more special if Harriet was playing for England too,” said Bridget.
Although the squads won’t be announced until early this week, both have been tipped for places in the match, which will take place at Esher Rugby Club in Surrey.
“The whole family has been anxiously waiting to hear,” said Bridget, who plays in the second row. “If we are involved I am sure there will be a large number of family there to see us play and I think they would be pretty proud of us both.”
Although Bridget and Harriet, who plays in the back row, grew up in Manchester, their Hamilton-born mother makes both eligible to play for either team. While Harriet was first selected to play for England as a 15-year-old teenager and is a former captain of the England under-20s women’s team, Bridget played rugby “for fun.” She never considered playing for a national team until her coach, former Scotland women’s captain Donna Kennedy, suggested she try out for Scotland. After being invited for a trial with the national team, she found herself selected for the 2013 Scotland training squad.
“I never dreamed I’d play rugby for a national team,” she said. “But I’m so excited at being in the training squad. We were always in Scotland when I was little – my grandfather was from Brora so we often went there for holidays as well as visiting family in Hamilton and in South Queensferry – so I know Scotland well.”
Indeed, while training with the national team, Bridget has been staying with an aunt in South Queensferry, and says that while there has been a little “banter” between her and her sister, their opposing team colours will not interfere with their relationship.
“We’ll probably send each other texts saying ‘good luck’ before the match,” she said. “We’re quite close as sisters so it’s never really been about rivalry. We even play at rival clubs – Worcester and Lichfield – it’s just the way it’s always been.”
Scott Hastings, former Scotland rugby player and younger brother of one-time Scotland rugby captain Gavin Hastings, said that playing opposite a sibling – as he once did in a match between Scotland and Barbarians – is a unique experience.
“It was quite the occasion,” he said. “There was an element of wanting to get a dig in at each other on the pitch, but it was also a lot of fun, and that’s the key I think. Where there’s a sibling rivalry you do also really understand each other – there’s tremendous pride – and when you’re playing for your country, as these sisters will be, it makes it extra special.”
Harriet is considered one of the rising stars of English women’s rugby, after joining the national squad last year. Her first cap came during the opening game of last year’s Womens Six Nations when England thrashed Scotland 47-0.
The pair, who both work full-time – Harriet as a sports shop manager in Birmingham and Bridget in her parents’ clothing shop – also have a younger brother, Elliot Millar-Mills, 20, who has played rugby for London Scottish and Middlesex.
“We all started playing at different ages,” said Bridget. “I started playing at about 13 whereas Harriet started with the under-nines. My parents have never played but they enjoy watching and coming to our matches to support us.”
After leaving school, Bridget put her rugby on hold for three years while at Reaseheath College studying equine subjects before returning to the sport with Manchester for two seasons. “I then went on loan to Waterloo from Manchester and the move was good for my game and helped me to then go on to Worcester, who are one of the top sides in England,” said Bridget.
“The standard of players at the club is brilliant and they push you on to better yourselves. A lot of them already have international experience and now hopefully I can get some under my belt too.”