Mairi Forsyth and her sister Jemma took up rugby within a week of each other and played at club level and for Scotland A together. Both have played for the senior Scotland side too – but it is a source of lasting regret to Mairi that, as their careers took different trajectories, they never represented their country at the same time.
Mairi, who will win her 14th cap at tighthead against England at Scotstoun this afternoon, was a precocious talent, but then cut down on her commitment to rugby just as Jemma’s career was taking off. By the time she returned to the system and began to figure in senior squads, her sister, right, capped at No 8, had been sidelined by a shoulder injury.
“When I was at school I went to Grangemouth Rugby Club and a week later my sister joined me,” the 28-year-old recalled. “We played together a lot at club level and academy, and we’ve got A caps together, then I got to a point in my life where I wasn’t committed to rugby as much as I wanted to at that level. So I withdrew myself a bit and it took me quite a while to get back involved. It’s something now that I really regret, but at the time I wasn’t putting the commitment in that I needed.
“Then Jemma got an op on her shoulder and was not in the squad any more when I came in, which was a shame that we never ever got to play together. It was something I would have loved to have happened. But her shoulder’s not 100 per cent and she’s moving on with her life now and looking to go other places.”
Forsyth is certainly making up for lost time now, and will win her 14th cap today less than a year and a half after her first. Having played in last year’s 80-0 loss to England at Twickenham she knows how tough this Six Nations match will be, but is convinced that the team is far more competitive now both physically and psychologically.
“Last year we came out to warm up right as the men’s game was finishing. Twickenham was absolutely packed and the men’s game had been very exciting, and I think that atmosphere shocked a lot of us. I think we maybe slightly came in on ourselves instead of using it to help us. So for me the biggest learning was that we need to not go into our shells. We really need to go at England. We just need to stick together and play our game, not let them come at us and play their rugby.
“I think we’re in a really good place just now physically, and I think we’ve come on so much since we played England last year – as individual players and as a group mentality. As a team we’ve come so far from where we were then.”