City-centre statues pay tribute to key Scotland Women trio

Images of Lisa Thomson, Donna Kennedy and Francesca McGhie take pride of place in Edinburgh's Castle Street.

Lisa Thomson, Donna Kennedy and Francesca McGhie
Lisa Thomson, Donna Kennedy and Francesca McGhie in front of their statues in Castle Street, Edinburgh. Image courtesy of Scottish Gas and Scottish Rugby.

INFAMOUSLY, the statuary of Edinburgh is overwhelmingly male, but the gross imbalance is being somewhat redressed over the next couple of days in Castle Street in the city centre, where images of Donna Kennedy, Lisa Thomson and Francesca McGhie have taken up residence. The three have been selected to represent the past, present and future of the Scotland Women’s team respectively, with Kennedy having been chosen thanks to her status as one of the most influential individuals from the generation that got the game going here.

Still the holder of the record for the most Scotland caps, the 52-year-old retains a keen interest in the sport. Based in Worcester, she runs a performance-coaching business called 115 Coaching Ltd, named after the number of appearances she made for her country. She has played a leading role in the establishment of the Scottish Thistles Clan, the organisation for past and present women internationals. And she remains an enthusiastic supporter of the current Scotland team, who have impressed her with their recent progress.

In common with other key figures from the early days of Scotland Women such as Sue Brodie, Kennedy always went about her business unassumingly. Little wonder, then, that the sight of herself in vivid blue statue form should take her aback somewhat.


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“It’s pretty surreal when you actually see yourself portrayed like that, because you don’t see yourself like that,” Kennedy said on Wednesday as the statues, created by Scottish Rugby sponsors Scottish Gas from recyclable materials, were unveiled. “You don’t realise what you’ve done until someone actually points it out to you.

“When I first started playing I had no idea where the journey was going to take me. I transitioned from athletics: my journey into rugby was: ‘Do you fancy setting up a rugby team in Biggar?’ I was 19 when I first picked up a rugby ball. 

“But when you look from 1994 when the second World Cup was held in Edinburgh to now, to now and what Scottish women’s rugby has become, it’s just night and day. And the sport in general is night and day.

“But let’s not stop there, though, because there is still a bit to go. We probably could have done more in that 30 years, but we are where we are. We’re on that trajectory and we’re on a good journey.”

The trajectory begun in 1993, when Scotland Women played their first international, led five years later to their winning a Grand Slam in what was then the Five Nations. That success has not been repeated since, but Kennedy is sure that the current squad, having turned the corner last year to put together a run of six wins on the bounce, are firmly heading in the right direction.

“Their performance has been getting better and better,” she continued. “I think this Six Nations campaign will be what Scotland need to push on and be a contender – I would say for the top six by the next World Cup. I know the Scottish Rugby strategy is to be in the top eight, but for me that’s not good enough – we should be aiming for the top five.

“In those early days there was no funding. You had to get your own funding from family and friends, and the support from the SRU was limited. 

“We were good in our day, but the game progresses. I think there needs to be good, accelerated support around where we are right now. Because the platform is there: we need to get our foot on the pedal.”

 

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Meanwhile, head coach Bryan Easson names his team today [Thursday] for the first game in this year’s Championship, against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday. With their current winning run, the team have equalled an achievement not seen since that 1998 Grand Slam in which Kennedy took part, and if they win in the Welsh capital they will have established an all-time record.

Lana Skeldon, for one, is taking nothing for granted, and knows that Wales are tough opponents, especially on their own patch. But the 30-year-old hooker has seen her squad grow in depth and quality over the past few years, and is confident that they are going into the tournament in a very positive frame of mind.

“Our first week of training was the best first training-session week of a camp I’ve ever seen,” Skeldon said. “So it was only ever going to build from there. And that is because of Edinburgh doing so well in the Celtic Challenge as well – bringing in players from there just brought in confidence.

“We all believe in each other and I think it’s a blend of the youngsters coming through and the people that have been on that journey and experienced that slightly upwards trajectory of these wins. It makes training so much easier. We don’t have as many fixes – we’re just adding little bits of layers to things that already work and are good.

“Our game management has improved over the last four or five years, we know the areas of the pitch we want to play in and we’re more aware of our strengths as a team, so [when it comes to playing Wales] it’s how to utilise them and take our opportunities when they are there. That’s something we’ve improved on over the last 18 months.

“We will be up for the game, but at the minute we’re staying very focused on ourselves. Any away game is tough because they will have more fans, but if we zone in and focus on what our jobs are, hopefully we’ll get the result we’re going down there for. “


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About Stuart Bathgate 1387 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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