As the varsity rugby match approaches, we caught up with head coach Claire Cruikshank and Scottish international Lisa Martin to talk performance sport, the growth of the women’s game and playing on the Murrayfield pitch.
On Saturday 24 September BT Murrayfield will once again play host to the Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Rugby Varsity Match between the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews. Last year’s encounter; the first at the home of Scottish rugby, saw St Andrews emerge victorious in the men’s event 27-26 while Edinburgh eased to a 36-7 win in the women’s game.
Edinburgh’s dominance in the women’s encounter is something that a former Scotland International and head coach of Edinburgh University Ladies, Claire Cruikshank would like to replicate in 2016. Victory in the historic match-up would set the tone for a season in which Claire hopes Edinburgh can become the number one ranked women’s rugby university in the UK.
The aim isn’t unrealistic. Last season the team finished second in the BUCS Premier League North, made the last eight of the Championship competition, and lost by just two points in the final act of the BUCS Rugby Sevens Championship final. Much of this was achieved without their Scotland Internationals. This season sees a restructure of the BUCS programme to minimize clashes and this, combined with the coaching programme (Claire has the UKCC L3 coaching qualification in rugby), makes the number one spot eminently achievable.
As Team GB’s recent success in Rio shows, strategic development is now central to sporting success and the University of Edinburgh is no exception. Alongside her role as head coach, Claire is a performance sport manager whose work is focused on ensuring talented student athletes experience the best possible support and development at the University.
She is ably assisted by Lisa Martin; an applied sports science graduate who captained the Scotland national team in this year’s Six Nations opener against England in February.
Lisa, like Claire, is ambitious for women’s rugby in Scotland both professionally, through her role as a performance sports coordinator at the University, but also personally as a member of the national side looking to qualify for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
We have one goal, to qualify for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, so every session from now until November is gearing us up to win those 2 fixtures, we’re not looking any further ahead than that just now.
Lisa’s rugby career began at the age of 7 with the Portobello Hornets. Inspired by her dad, who used to play in the RAF, she worked her way through the international age grades, starting with the Scotland under-16 team as 13-year-old.
Having played throughout her four years at university, represented Scottish Universities and Great Britain Students at 7s, and made her senior international 15s debut at the 2010 World Cup in England, Lisa recognises the importance of the varsity match in promoting and increasing awareness of the women’s game.
It’s a fantastic platform to showcase the skills and excitement of women’s rugby in Scotland at the University level, it creates a buzz around the game and increases the fan base to those who weren’t aware of it before.
With tickets free for students and under 25s and just £5 for everyone else, Claire and Lisa are hoping that the crowd of just under 10,000 that came to watch 2015’s rugby extravaganza can be exceeded this year.
If you are in Edinburgh on 24 September would like to support rugby at the University of Edinburgh, then Claire Cruikshank has some names to look out for.
Current Scotland Internationals Sarah Law (captain), Megan Gaffney (part of Team GB 7s in the build-up to Rio), Rhona Lloyd, Lisa Thomson and Katie Dougan, as well as Sally Stott who plays for England U20s.
To find out more and to book your tickets please visit the website. For group bookings contact the ticket centre on 0131 346 5160 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm).