Scotland Women confirm support for Bryan Easson and medical staff but claim RPS statement was not authorised

The Scotland Women’s squad have confirmed their full support for head coach Bryan Easson and their medical team, while continuing to express sympathy for the family of their late team-mate Siobhan Cattigan.

Bryan Easson during a Scotland Women's training session at the DAM Health Stadium, on August 26, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Bryan Easson during a Scotland Women's training session at the DAM Health Stadium, on August 26, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Easson and members of the team’s support staff have been severely criticised in recent weeks by Neil and Morven Cattigan, the parents of Siobhan. The Cattigans have begun legal action against Scottish Rugby, alleging that the failure to give proper treatment for brain injuries she received was a contributory factor in the decline in her health which led to her death last November aged 26.

Last week Bill Mitchell, the chief executive of Rugby Players Scotland (RPS), gave an interview in which he said he was speaking on behalf of the squad, and stated that Easson and the medical staff had the players’ backing. The majority of the players then put out identical tweets saying they had not been aware of the impending publication of the article or of the statements attributed in it to the squad.

On Friday, however, while maintaining their insistence that Mitchell had not been authorised to speak on their behalf, senior players Helen Nelson and Sarah Law confirmed at a Murrayfield press conference that the main thrust of his statements – that the squad supported Easson and the medical staff – was accurate. His apparently erroneous belief that he had been authorised to speak on their behalf was due, they said, to a breakdown in communications, involving but not necessarily restricted to squad member Megan Gaffney. The winger has in the past liaised with Mitchell on behalf of the squad, but it is unclear whether she will continue to do so.

“It is a communication breakdown,” Nelson said. “We have actively tried to never put our thoughts out there for respect for the family and our management, and we felt frustrated that that had happened without our permission. We met as a group [after the interview was published], and recognised maybe there had been miscommunication.

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“Previously it was Megan who was our representative,” Nelson continued. Asked if Gaffney had stepped down, she added: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable commenting on that at the moment.”

A printed statement from the squad, handed out to the media before the conference began, read: “We are focusing on the World Cup, supported by our medical and management team, and led by Bryan as our head coach, who has our full support leading into the tournament. Shibby was a kind and loving team-mate, a fierce competitor and above all a great friend. We are committed to continuing her legacy into the World Cup in New Zealand and beyond.”

For the avoidance of doubt, Nelson added: “We fully support our medical team heading into the World Cup.”

Scotland play the USA in Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon in one of two warm-up matches for the World Cup, which kicks off in October. Full-back Chloe Rollie is set to win her 50th cap, while forward Elliann Clarke could make her debut off the bench.

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Easson, who continues to deny the Cattigan’s allegations against him, said there had never been any question of his standing down. “As the players have been very clear, I’ve got full support not only from the players, the management, but also from the senior management here as well,” he said. “So no.”

Scotland (v the USA at the DAM Health Stadium, Saturday, 4pm): C Rollie; R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, H Smith; H Nelson, C Mattison; M Wright, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, S Bonar, R Malcolm (captain), L McMillan, E Gallagher. Substitutes: J Rettie, L Bartlett, E Clarke, R McLachlan, J Konkel, M McDonald, M Smith, S Campbell.