Women’s 6N: ex-rower Bonar makes rapid progress with Scotland

The Loughborough lock returns to the home back row for England clash

The Scotland Women's Rugby squad
The Scotland squad gather before kick-off against France. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

SARAH Bonar could be forgiven for wanting to forget all about her first start in Test rugby – a desperately one-sided defeat by England in last year’s Six Nations Championship. But, as she prepares to face the same opponents at Scotstoun tonight, the 23-year-old from Aberdeen has no intention of forgetting that game or any other adverse experience on the rugby pitch.

Having only taken up rugby four years ago, Bonar has already made rapid progress through the ranks, and as a relatively late starter she is convinced she must take as much as she can out of every match. “That was a very tough game, but all tough games have a lot of learning points as well,” she said of that bruising encounter in 2017.

“It was a first exposure for me on the international stage, and since then I’ve played in a lot of Premiership games for Loughborough Lightning, and that has developed me as a player and equipped me better for this game.”

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A lock at Loughborough, Bonar has been used in the back row by Scotland coach Shade Munro when fit, and although she missed out against France because of a niggling injury she is there again tonight alongside Jade Konkel and Rachel Malcolm as the team seek a first win in this year’s Six Nations . “I think my attributes in terms of ball-carrying and determination lend themselves to the back row,” she added. “I’m happy to get a shirt anywhere in the forward pack.”

Realistically, the odds are heavily against Scotland being happy at full-time tonight. England coach Simon Middleton has been confident enough to make a few changes to his starting line-up with the aim of giving a few fringe players a run out, knowing that they should still be good enough to win with something to spare.

But, whatever happens, Bonar will remain pleased that she made the switch from rowing – a switch that was made thanks in large part to one of her opponents this evening. “When I was at college as a rower at Hartpury, Danielle Waterman, who plays for England, was the women’s rugby coach. I used to have a wee bit of trouble with my nerves in rowing, and she took me on as a mentor.

“We crossed paths again during uni, at Loughborough, and she asked me how the rowing was going. She recommended that I try a bit of sevens to keep up my fitness while I decided what to do with my rowing and put me in touch with a few clubs. I never really looked back from there. I just enjoyed the variety in rugby training.”

Having already been picked for the Great Britain juniors and under-23s squads, Bonar might well have gone a lot further in rowing had she stuck with it – the aim back then was to make it to the next Olympic Games. Instead, she is part of a Scotland squad that is gradually becoming more competitive, and that has as its longer-term ambition qualification for the World Cup after just failing to make it last time.

“Each game we’re setting the bar higher and higher,” she added. “We’re disappointed with certain aspects of our game, but constantly improving as well. It’s certainly exciting for the future, and as we build towards the next World Cup.”

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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.