Women’s 6N: Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm pays tribute to late mother of Emma Wassell

Pauline Wassell died earlier this month and her daughter has missed the team's last two matches

Emma Wassell and Rachel Malcolm
Emma Wassell (left) and Rachel Malcolm during the Six Nations match between Scotland and France at the end of last month. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND captain Rachel Malcolm has paid an emotional tribute to Pauline Wassell, who died earlier this month after a short illness. Second-row Emma Wassell has missed the team’s last two games, the defeat by England and Saturday’s 17-10 win over Italy, following her mother’s death.

Speaking after the victory in Parma – Scotland’s first on Italian soil since 1999 – Malcolm said: “It was a very emotional day. We’re a tight-knit group, Emma is my best friend as well, so it is a loss that is felt by us all. 

“Pauline was ever present in our lives. She was an amazing supporter of this team and an incredible mum to Emma. She was an incredible person. Our thoughts are with Emma and the rest of her family.”

Malcolm, who is a team-mate of Emma’s at Loughborough Lightning as well as for the national team, explained it was important for the Scotland squad to prepare for the Italy match professionally in the wake of the tragedy. “We didn’t want to focus on it too much, because obviously that could have taken us over the edge emotionally,” she said. 

“But we had it in our hearts and we wanted to go out and do Emma proud and do Pauline proud – and I think we did that.

“I think you have to compartmentalise to some extent and focus on what she would want. And I know Emma would be furious with me if I hadn’t given this game 100 percent, and I wanted to do her and Pauline proud. 

“So it has been fairly straightforward in that respect. I have just kept working hard.” 

Head coach Bryan Easson revealed that Emma visited the squad in the run-up to the Italy game. “Wass came in last week to camp,” he said. “She wanted to be part of things and that just shows the mark of her and the group.”

Scotland have yet to say whether the lock forward will be available for Saturday’s match in Belfast against Ireland, when victory will ensure a third-place finish in the Championship and thus qualification for WXV1 later this year as well as the 2025 Rugby World Cup.

Meanwhile, Chloe Rollie looks set to miss the fifth-round match at the Kingspan Stadium after it was confirmed that her yellow card against the Italians had been upgraded to a red. The full-back was sent to the sin bin in the final minute of the match at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi following a dangerous clear-out, and is now expected to face a disciplinary hearing in the coming days. A ban of one or two games appears likely.

If Rollie does miss out, Meryl Smith will probably return in the No 15 jersey that she wore in the win against Wales and the subsequent loss to France. Smith was moved to her more usual position of inside centre for the defeat by England, but was then replaced by Lisa Thomson for the Italy game, in which she was an unused substitute.

Ireland were beaten 88-10 by England on Saturday, and Easson expects them to be desperate to bounce back from that result. “We’ve been on the end of scorelines like that and you want to show people it’s a blip and it doesn’t define you as a team,” he said. “Going to Ireland is never easy – they’re a proud nation and they’ll want to put in a performance that makes the country proud.”

About Stuart Bathgate 1414 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.