Setting Up At The Stoop. We chat Red Roses and Harlequins with Emily Scott

In a week that has seen numerous top tier rugby games (and sports in general) postponed or cancelled due to coronavirus contingency planning it’s a delight to know we’ll still be able to watch England strut their stuff in Twickenham on Saturday. Yes, the men will be running out at the stadium, but I’ll be across the road to watch the Red Roses face Wales at the Stoop. With 6 Harlequins Women players in the starting 15 we caught up with one of their number, Emily Scott to preview the weekend.

The Stoop is familiar ground for Scott, whether it’s in the quartered jersey or, as she reminds me, wearing the rose, she has played there plenty of times and considers it home turf. Harlequins ground has played host to England Women for some years now and putting the game on at lunchtime ahead of a late afternoon kick off for the men seems a shrewd move by the RFU, something Emily recognises too. “Hopefully this is going to be one of our highest attendances, which should play into our hands”!

“We always know it will be a tough game” Emily says as talk turns to her opponents on Saturday. “They’re a passionate bunch and we know they’ll bring that intensity, so we need to match them, especially at the start of the game. It’s a good rivalry, and hopefully it will be a good encounter!”

For England, Scott is clearly seen as a full back, battling it out with Saracens Sarah McKenna for the 15 shirt, whilst her club games for Harlequins normally see her further forward, playing from 10. It’s one of the hallmarks of Simon Middleton’s England side that players are well versed in multiple positions, offering flexibility and ensuring excellent core skills. Emily clearly sees the value in it. “I tend to play fly-half at Harlequins, which I’m really enjoying. Coming into England, it’s just about being able to adapt my skills and use them to make the best of it in the full-back role. I’m learning my craft there at the moment, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s great to have that competition with McKenna because that pushes us both to get better!”

The hard work is certainly paying off, with Scott starting for the second time in the tournament, while Sarah McKenna takes a berth on the wing. “I was delighted to get the start for the Scotland game” she tells me, pride evident in her voice, “Hopefully I’ll go out there and back myself up with a performance! I think the conditions will be slightly different to how they were in Scotland! That might give us more of an opportunity as a back three to get some running rugby in and see what we can do!”

That attitude is reflected throughout the squad, every game is a new opportunity, and for Emily that’s reflected by the amount of changes the coaches have made while still putting out an incredibly strong team. “I think it shows the versatility in our squad. We’re all talented players, we’re all got skills, being able to use them across different positions and being able to adapt to them what we’re about, really. It’s always a benefit to be able to cover different positions, so I think it’s good that they’ve been able to utilise us in that way.”

We couldn’t talk without mentioning the postponed game in Italy next week, the icing on the cake of a confusing tournament that has seen players dealing with storms, moving venues and then games being postponed. Emily seems to take it all in her stride, crediting the team and especially the support and back room staff who allow the players to focus on doing what they do best and going out on the field without too many worries.

The chat moves toward the impending return of Tyrrells Premier 15s, as Emily’s Harlequins look to take back their top spot in the table. “I really enjoy playing my club rugby, especially at Harlequins. We’ve been going well so far. Obviously it was a really tough encounter when Saracens came down to the Stoop a couple of months ago, a great game of rugby. That’s the standard that we want to set across the Tyrrells. Last season was my first season at Harlequins, and obviously we got into the Premiership final… Then to kind of miss out, right at the end was really difficult. We’ve got quite a lot of games to go through yet but, you know, if we can get through the semi-final and get into final again it would be fantastic!”

The return to club rugby also means returning to playing alongside women she’s lined up against for the past few weeks. “That’s one of the best things about rugby, isn’t it? You give your all for 80 minutes on the pitch, you have a real battle against each other, and then you come off the field and you have that real camaraderie, go back to your clubs and play together again!”

We couldn’t agree more!

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