Scotland Women’s Emma Wassell ready to hit the ground running again

Ever-present lock is upbeat about future despite tough time during pandemic

Wassell is looking forward to the time when she resumes training and playing for Scotland, and is keeping herself fit during the lockdown. Picture: SNS

We can all probably look on moments in our recent past when we thought “this must be as bad as it gets” little realising the grim reality of the present we now find ourselves in.

Not the cheeriest intro I’ve ever written, I grant you, but facts must be faced and a positive mindset that life continues and sport will resume at some point once far more important matters are dealt with.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Rugby players around the country are doing that, keeping up with as much training as they can and, in lockdown, staying in touch with and encouraging their team-mates through a trying time.

The Scotland Women’s squad have endured a particularly bad time of it, with one of their colleagues and friends stricken with the coronavirus while they were in northern Italy for a game that would never be on the weekend the global pandemic first hit Europe. Thankfully, she is recovering well.

Prior to that the girls had Storm Ciara to contend with. Remember when that now seemingly minor storm was big news? It meant that a match scheduled for Scotstoun on the Sunday was hastily arranged on the Monday afternoon behind closed doors at BT Murrayfield, though a small band of family and friends were in attendance.

Emma Wassell, the 25-year-old lock who incredibly hasn’t missed a Test for Scotland in six years, recalled: “Yes, it’s strange looking back and thinking Storm Ciara was the biggest challenge we’d have to deal with this year.

“It was a disruption, you don’t expect a Six Nations game to be called off like that but it was great the SRU managed to move it and a fantastic experience to play at BT Murrayfield.”

Scotland were heavily beaten 57-0 by England’s crack professional squad but Wassell feels that should be viewed in a context of visible improvement of a women’s squad who have made big progress in the past few years from the days when scores like that against every nation were becoming a dispiriting routine.

“Some might look at that England result and think ‘Scotland Women are rubbish’ but that would be unfair because those girls are all full professionals and we have been making clear improvements.

“We have occasional dips, which is natural. But we are all very positive about the way this squad is heading.”

Shade Munro reversed the trend of heavy losses, guided them to a few breakthrough wins and, after he moved on to become Under-20s assistant coach, Philip Doyle, the man who led Ireland Women to a Grand Slam in 2013, has taken on the baton and oversaw impressive Test wins in South Africa last year.

Since making her debut against Ireland in the opening game of the 2014 Six Nations, the Aberdeenshire girl has remarkably featured in all 43 Scotland Tests played since, 41 from the start.

She modestly puts it down to “luck”, though a fair bit of talent has to be acknowledged. “I’ve had injuries but managed them well,” she said. “There have been times I’ve been hurting but never too hurt to play, missed some club games but not internationals.”

Her club is Corstorphine Cougars in Edinburgh, a link she forged during her time at Heriot-Watt University. She is now back in her hometown of Ellon and working for an accountancy firm in Aberdeen as she studies for her chartered qualification.

It means a fair bit of travel as she frequently drives down to the central belt for national sessions and club games while doing most of her training with the local club.

Currently self-isolating with her partner in their Ellon flat she is doing as much as she can to keep ticking over.

“I’ve got some weights to work with but we don’t have a garden so I’ve been using that one hour a day to head over to the nearby rugby pitch and have a runabout,” she explained.

“It’s just me but it’s good to be on a pitch, see the posts and think we will be back playing at some point.

“I know when we do I won’t be match-fit like I was, that will take some time, but I at least want to be in a place where I feel I’m ready to hit the ground when we get back to proper training, then take it from there.”

Wassell is looking forward to resuming the Scotland Women cause and praised the impact Doyle, nicknamed “Goose”, has made since taking the reins last year.

“He’s been really good,” she said. “He’s a black and white character, you are never in any doubt about what he wants and expects from you, which is always great in a coach. He’s also a really fun guy too.”