Women footballers inspiring counterparts on rugby pitch

Scotland rugby international Helen Nelson with Gemma Fay, the SRU's head of women and girls' rugby and a former Scotland international footballer. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS/SRU
Scotland rugby international Helen Nelson with Gemma Fay, the SRU's head of women and girls' rugby and a former Scotland international footballer. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS/SRU
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Scotland Women rugby players have been inspired by the fantastic achievement of their footballing counterparts in qualifying for the 2019 World Cup, according to the country’s most capped female player
in the round ball code.

Gemma Fay won a remarkable 203 caps as goalkeeper before becoming the SRU’s head of women’s and girls rugby. She hung up her boots after playing for the women’s international football team in their historic appearance at the European Championship finals last summer.

“It’s been a fantastic week,” said Fay after the 2-1 win away to Albania secured Scotland a first World Cup finals place in France next summer.

“It inspires us [in rugby]. If you look at Twitter there were a number of our national team players congratulating them. When we talk about sport in Scotland we are one nation, they are inspired by the football team’s performances and I’m sure we can push on to our own World Cup in 2021.”

Fay had a first-hand view through her distinguished career of the development made by the women’s football team as they built their way to the point now of achieving back-to-back qualifications for major tournaments.

A play-off loss to Spain denied the Scots a place at the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup and there will be a concerted push to ensure they go a step further and are at the party in 2021, with the host nation or nations to be announced in November.

“In terms of the national team set up the resources are really good in rugby, similar to what it is in football,” said Fay. “It’s the development of the players where women’s rugby is a few years off.

“Women’s football put a pathway in place 15-20 years ago which you are now starting to see the fruits of. Development of players takes time. We’ve launched our Scottish Futures programmes for the under-18s and 20s.

“It takes time to filter through but, in saying that, we have some talented players in the national team, and our job is to afford opportunities to them to be more powerful, train more often and develop their skills.”

Fay was speaking in Glasgow as the Scotland Women rugby team unveiled its own shirt sponsor for the first time.

The link up with SP Energy Networks – a three-year deal which also includes rights for the Scotland Women 7s teams and the male under-20 and under-18 sides – is the first separate shirt sponsor for the women’s team from the Scotland men’s side since the men’s and women’s unions integrated in 2009.

Fay added: “We’ve just finalised our preparation for the Six Nations and have an exciting autumn in place [with Tests against Canada, Italy and Spain]. Helen [Nelson, the Scotland Women’s centre who modelled the new kit yesterday] is going off to Montpellier, we’ve got our [pro] players in Lille and down south [England] so the competitiveness we need in the team is shaping up nicely.”

Fay expressed hope there would soon be a resolution to the Murrayfield Wanderers situation, which has seen a number of players breakaway from the top female outfit in the country and left them unable to play their opening fixtures of the Women’s Premier League season. “That one sits with the competitions committee and I believe they are in communication with Murrayfield and a resolution will come,” said Fay. “They have to run by the rules and regulations of the league. We want everyone who wants to play rugby playing but there’s rules and regulations in place and committees to deal with them and we need to respect that committee to do their job.”