W6N: Scotland v England: Chloe Rollie’s star is on the rise again

Full-back says she is ready to start again after two appearances off the bench during injury comeback

Choe Rollie
Chloe Rollie in action against England in the 2023 Six Nations match at Kingston Park in Newcastle. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

EVER since her Test debut back in 2015, Chloe Rollie has been one of the real stars of the Scotland squad. Invariably the most likely player to score when the chips are down, she has also – in part because of that try-scoring ability – consistently been the most popular player with the support.

These days Rollie is far from the only real attacking threat in a team that also includes the likes of Meryl Smith, Emma Orr and Francesca McGhie, but her box-office status is greater than ever. She is there on the adverts for Saturday’s Six Nations game against England,  and one of the first things you see on entering Murrayfield is a giant banner in which her image gets equal billing with that of Jamie Ritchie.

It is a well-deserved rise in profile for the full-back, who has consistently given her all over the course of her 63-cap international career. But it is also, she insists, a consequence of the steady growth of the national team – a growth which will see a record crowd for a Scotland Women’s home game turn up at Edinburgh’s Hive Stadium for the round-three Championship match.


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“It’s a wee bit mind-blowing, if I’m honest, to see yourself on the stadium,” she says. “I’ve been here a long time now, and I think to see myself on the side of the stadium is massive. And it just allows younger girls and younger players to look up at that and hopefully think that they could be there one day as well. So that’s quite cool.

“It shows exactly where Scottish rugby and the Scottish women’s team is getting pushed to. It shows how much hard work we’ve put into the game and into showing our brand of rugby – and how we want to play and inspire the next generation and keep everything going and ticking over. It shows how much work has been put in across the board to get us to where we are now.

“The Hive being sold out is testament to how interested people are in us as a team and as a union. Getting the news the other day that it’s sold out – I was so happy, so ecstatic about it. It’s really cool and I’m excited to hopefully go out there and play against England in front of a full crowd and experience that atmosphere. It’ll be cool.”

Still only 28, Rollie has been a professional since 2017, when she and Scotland team-mate Lisa Thomson signed with Lille. That made them the country’s second and third female pros after Jade Konkel, and was a significant step down the road to the present situation of an essentially fully professional squad. But there was nothing inevitable about the subsequent progress, and Rollie admits that she did not expect things to develop at quite the speed they have done.

“I think back then it was a possibility, but even then it was years in advance,” she says. “Even last year I just kind of thought maybe in two, three, four years’ time we’ll get a sold-out Hive. Maybe then, but it may be to the end of my personal career.”


Chloe Rollie and Lisa Thomson
Chloe Rollie (left) and Lisa Thomson after the August 2017 announcement of their move to France on professional contracts. Photo: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

That end may well still be the best part of a decade off. She was out injured for a spell earlier this year, which is why, after 61 starts, she could only find a place on the bench against Wales and France. But, having regained match fitness, she believes she is also ready to reclaim the No 15 jersey from Smith in the team that head coach Bryan Easson will announce today (Thursday).

“It’s been tough,” she says of that period of injury and rehabilitation. “It’s been a big change for me, starting 61 games and then being on the bench. Being injured 10 weeks before the Six Nations didn’t help anything at all, and Meryl came in at training and trained well. I was on the sidelines watching and Meryl thoroughly deserves to be in the squad – she’s a great player, she can slot in at 10, 12, 13, 15. 

“So that was quite tough to take, but again, it happens. It’s rugby, it’s sport, it happens. But I’ve been focusing on me – what I can do, how I can get better, to get back on the pitch – what I need to do to get that shirt back. That’s definitely what I’m striving for.

“I just had an ankle niggle. That was one of those things that was almost an injury that you had to let it leave and settle. The bone was pretty much damaged and it just needed time to settle down – I couldn’t really run on it without knowing it was going to be OK again.

“I injured my ankle in mid-December, played two games on it and then realised it was too sore to play on. So then I had to just completely stop, got it looked at, and that was when we decided we just had to give it a break and let it have time to heal.

“When I came off the bench against Wales that was my first game time since the middle of  January. Even Wales was a push. It was kind of lucky that I got through to be able to be on the bench against Wales.”

Four minutes’ action at Cardiff Arms Park hardly even amounted to a cameo appearance as Rollie simply had to get stuck in and join the defensive effort which secured a 22-20 victory. Twenty-five minutes in the 15-5 home loss to France the following weekend gave her more of a chance to remind everyone of her attacking skills, but now she is more  than ready to play from minute one to 80.

“Like I say, coming back from injury is always tough. You don’t really know where you’re at, and Bryan and the management team didn’t know where I was at either. 

“It was tough, even confidence as well – I didn’t know where my confidence was as I hadn’t had the chance, really, to play the week before. So even mentally you feel it’s a bit of a struggle, because you don’t really know how it’s going to go, how you’re going to go. I think 25 minutes was a good chunk of time for me to be able to show that I was ready to go again, which 100 per cent I am.”

 

 

She has scored in Scotland’s last two games against England, but both have been no more than consolation efforts in heavy defeats. The world No 1s are overwhelming favourites to win again on Saturday, but Rollie believes that the team’s performances against Wales and France will ensure they go into the coming game in a confident frame of mind.

“Taking the last two performances, we’ve definitely got a lot more confidence behind us than we’d usually have. I think in the past we’ve maybe said about having confidence – but we’ve gone on the pitch and not had that confidence. This Six Nations I think we’ve got way more confidence, and yeah, England are the No 1 team in the world so it’s never going to be easy – they have strong ball-carriers and fast backs – but whatever happens on the day will happen. 

“It’s about how we’re growing as a squad. Performances have been tough in the past if we’ve been beaten by quite a lot but we look at how we performed as a squad and compare it to the last time and where we’ll be in two or three years time. Four years ago we were still losing by quite a lot against England and it was about how we change that over a period of time rather than just saying ‘we’ll go and beat them next year’.” 

Scotland were denied a losing bonus point against France by a last-minute score, but their four-point win against Wales means they are still on course to meet their objective for the campaign –  the third-place finish that will both put them into WXV1 later this year and qualify them for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“That has been our aim since we came into Six Nations camp. Bryan stood up and said that’s our goals, WX1 and World Cup qualification, and those are things that have never gone out of our mind. Yes, it is a bit tougher now with Italy’s performance and playing them away next week is going to be tough. We’ve never been more confident in how we can perform and how we can take control of that and get the results we need to be there. It’s one thing that we’re definitely pushing for.” 

While Scotland aim to push up the Six Nations table, Rollie has a chart of her own to climb – the list of the ten most-capped Scottish players that is displayed in the team dressing room. She is only just on that list at present, but has every intention of carrying on the ascent for some time to come.

“You walk into the changing room and we’ve got the chart up with people’s pictures and cap numbers and I’m at the bottom,” she says. “It’s mind-blowing. It’s never something I thought about happening before ,but now I’m there it’s really cool. I do want to strive to get further up that board – and stay on there for a while.”

 

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About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

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