Scotland’s women are “in our strongest place we’ve ever been in terms of togetherness” after the being one of the first sporting teams in the world to have been affected by the Covid-19 virus, according to captain Rachel Malcolm.
The team were in northern Italy in mid-February when the breakout first started, and one of the team – still anonymous for privacy reasons – tested positive for the virus on returning home. The entire squad went into quarantine and they’re pretty much still there, as the lockdown came into effect just a week after they were given the all-clear.
The Nottingham-based skipper is still at the centre of weekly team-bonding and support online and she feels that they will eventually emerge a far stronger team.
“We’re in the strongest place we have been,” she said. “We had been faced with challenge after challenge this season but what actually happened was that as a squad we became so much tighter, including the management as well.
“The way that we dealt with those challenges was unbelievable. I have never felt so proud to be part of Scottish rugby as I was during that time because of how we dealt with is and how we came through it stronger.”
The team never had the chance to get fearful about their Italy experience, because it was more of a surprise than anything.
“We were so excited to get playing and were trying to optimise our recovery as much as possible and were spending most of our time in the hotel,” she said. “We were just focused on the game, as any athlete would be in that situation.
“There was no real fear, it was mostly togetherness. It was probably surprise (when one player tested positive) more than anything because at that that point it was not as widespread as it is now.
“We had Dr Andrew Murray, who is one of the most well renowned doctors in sport, so we knew we were being supported as well as we could be. That gave us a huge amount of confidence to follow the guidelines from the government and various sporting bodies with that.
“We were surprised and looking out for the welfare of our player but she was well throughout her recovery.”
The frustration is that a badly disrupted season with three Six Nations games postponed means they weren’t able to show themselves at their best on the pitch.
“What we were doing on the pitch was getting better and better throughout the Six Nations,” she continued. “It was an important part of what is to come in the next couple of seasons – to go through that as probably no other international team has ever gone through and come out the other end stronger and more gelled than ever.
“I have every confidence in what the SRU is doing, they have been in communication with us weekly, updating us on the situation and keeping us in the loop with all the necessary information that we can get.
“There are a lot of unknowns and everyone is aware of that across the world whether outside sport or inside. They are doing their best in keeping us updated and that is all we can ask for.”
The team are the girls’ main social group, however, and they’re keeping tight even at social distance.
“We are lucky to be in the time we are in that we can be in touch through FaceTime, Zoom or whatever,” added Rachel. “As a squad we have been putting a conscious effort into doing that.
“Jade Konkel is a personal trainer and has been running weekly sessions for the whole squad and that has been really well attended, a really good way to keep the girls interacting and pushing forward with our goals.
“We are not a squad you need to chase in terms of getting people to train and things like that, but it is really good to check in with everyone and see they are okay.
“Everyone is going go in troughs and have low points so have that ability to communicate has been brilliant. From my experience chatting to the girls over the last couple of weeks, everyone is doing really well and keeping healthy and happy.”