Back in April, Eilidh Sinclair watched on television from Australia as her Scotland Women Sevens team-mates came close to securing a World Rugby Sevens Series core spot for 2019/20.
In the end, the Scots lost out to Brazil in the final in the qualifying event in Hong Kong and a few days later, Sinclair was playing in the back-row for club side Queensland as they lost 8-5 to New South Wales Waratahs in the Super W final.
Two disappointing results obviously, but to look at it in those basic terms is too simplistic.
Indeed, the Scots finishing runners-up in Hong Kong and Sinclair having a great season in Super W shows just how far the international abbreviated team and the player herself have come in the last couple of years.
Last September, a fine showing in Russia saw Scotland finish third at the tournament and fourth in the overall Grand Prix standings.
After the first Rugby Europe Grand Prix event on the outskirts of Paris last summer, the newly-promoted Scots side sat eighth out of 12 teams.
However, any fears of falling into a relegation spot in Kazan were blown away with two days of superb rugby by captain Helen Nelson and her team.
Sinclair, the 23-year-old former Community School of Auchterarder and Murrayfield Wanderers player, played her part in those events and then took the big decision to move to Australia.
She played for the University of Tasmania in the national sevens event and then was signed by Queensland for the Super W campaign.Previously a utility back, Sinclair made the move to openside flanker in that competition and was a revelation.
And now she is excited to be back in a Scotland shirt this weekend at the final World Rugby Sevens Series event for 2018/19 in Biarritz which takes place on Saturday and Sunday.
Scotland are the ‘invited’ team for this event in France and Sinclair told TRU: “I have been back for five or six weeks now and it is great to be home.
“I think the experience in Australia was invaluable. I got to learn from a number of top-quality people including former Wallabies like Luke Burgess so I know I have a lot more knowledge about the game and look at things differently.
“There was a different style of play out there and I am trying to take the best bits from what I have learnt in Australia and in Scotland to use them as I move forward.
“When I was in Australia, I was up at crazy hours watching the girls playing in the Six Nations while I kept a close eye on the sevens team in Hong Kong.
“In the quarter-finals and semi-finals in Hong Kong the girls were terrific and really showed what we could do, but it was just unfortunate in the final against Brazil.”
This weekend will certainly test the Scots out with a pool including both New Zealand and England.
The Scotland v New Zealand match in the Parc des Sports Aguilera is on Saturday at 12.36pm UK time with the subsequent clashes with England and Russia at 2.58pm and 5.42pm respectively.
?? | Scotland Women 7s Head Coach Scott Forrest has named his squad to travel to the final World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series event in Biarritz this weekend. ?????????????? #AsOne https://t.co/LhzG1LplXf— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) June 10, 2019
“It has been great being back and being with the girls at training again in recent weeks and this weekend with New Zealand up first, we have got a ‘nothing to lose’ approach and everyone is really excited to play the best team in the world,” said Sinclair.
“It gives you a great benchmark as to where you are at and hopefully within the next couple of years, we can be playing these sorts of teams regularly.
“I think all of the Scotland rugby girls have been keeping a close eye on the World Cup football too and it is always important to support Scots in other sports.
The team are right behind the girls and hope they do well in the football and hopefully we can do well in France too.”
Nine of the 12 players involved in Scotland’s squad for this event were part of the group that came close to promotion in Hong Kong.
Head coach Scott Forrest said: “This week is the best opportunity we have to benchmark ourselves against the best and having someone like New Zealand in the pool is exactly what I want because we want to play against the best in the world.
“It is a brilliant opportunity for the players to show what they can do on this stage and this invitation is reward for how well they did in the Rugby Europe events last season.
“Hong Kong was obviously disappointing in the end and it was frustrating not to play our best rugby in the final against a good Brazil side, but the players gave it everything out there. We are now excited for this weekend.”
The three fresh faces in the squad since Hong Kong are the returning Sinclair who is likely to play in the forwards while the new caps are Murrayfield Wanderers’ Meryl Smith and Darlington Mowden Park Sharks’ Evie Tonkin.
Forrest continued: “Meryl has come through our age-grade programme and played for the under-18s sevens before being part of the Futures under-20s set-up.
“She has been in and around the squad for a while and she is someone we know well. She was one of the outstanding players in the under-18s sevens home nations tournament last year.
“She trained with us in the build up to Hong Kong and she has taken her opportunity which is great to see.
“She is a stand-off in 15s and sevens and she is a natural rugby player who played age-grade Touch rugby for Scotland as well so she offers something a bit different.
“Evie was identified through the SQ [Scottish Qualified] programme. She has been playing for DMP Shark in the Tyrrells Premiership which is a quality league and she plays alongside and against internationalists.
“She has played a lot at 15 for them, we may use her as a centre, but more likely on the wing this weekend.”
Abi Evans (Hillhead/Jordanhill)
Megan Gaffney (Watsonians)
Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough Lightning)
Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning)
Helen Nelson (Montpellier, C)
Chloe Rollie (Lille Metropole Rugby Club Villeneuvios)
Annabel Sergeant (Heriot’s)
Eilidh Sinclair (Queensland)
Hannah Smith (Hillhead/Jordanhill)
Meryl Smith (Murrayfield Wanderers)
Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Evie Tonkin (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)