Judo has been a 'big help' in my rugby development - McLachlan

Rachel McLachlan will make her first start for Scotland against Canada on Tuesday
©Rachel McLachlan

Rachel McLachlan only took up rugby 14 months ago, but the teenager is ready to make a big impact from the back-row this evening when Scotland Women take on Canada at Scotstoun.

And you need not worry that the 19-year-old will not be prepared for the physicality of the match because for 11 years, she was a fine judo player

Indeed, she used to spend her time perfecting judo throws with Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons - and she will now be looking to make turnovers on the rugby field.

McLachlan has greatly impressed national team head coach Shade Munro with the way she has adapted to her new sport of choice, so much so that, after a competent debut off the bench in the loss in Italy earlier this month, he has handed the Glasgow Caledonian University student the number seven jersey for the visit of the fourth best team in the world.

McLachlan, who is originally from Edinburgh, told TRU: “In judo Gemma Gibbons was my biggest inspiration.

“I saw her at the Olympics in 2012 [where she won a silver in the -78kg women’s event] and that was when I decided that I wanted to get involved in judo competitions.

“And then it was just crazy as eventually I was training with her and that was just such an inspiration. It was really lovely.

“I went to see a few rugby games when I was younger and I wasn’t that keen on it, but as I’ve grown up, I thought ‘that looks really fun’.

“I started rugby when I joined university in September 2017, so I’m quite new to the game, but a lot of what I did at judo has helped me and I have brought those things into my rugby and I think that’s been a big help.”

Rachel in Judo action. Photo Credit: Rachel McLachlan

McLachlan started her fledgling rugby career with the university team and then joined West of Scotland where things really began to take off for the physiotherapy student.

“I then got into the PDP [Performance Development Programme] with Scottish Rugby in February and since then I have been involved with the full Scotland Sevens team and now the XVs squad,” McLachlan, who now plays for Stirling County, explained.

“It’s quite overwhelming. It is mad when I look back on it, but I’m so thankful that I’m in the position I am in now.

“The first time I played 80 minutes I was shocked. I like physically, handling and stuff, but I found it quite difficult to start with.

“There is a lot of thinking on your feet and I had to try and learn quite quickly, but I really enjoy the game.

“There’s a lot of differences between the two sports. Obviously if you’re working in a team it’s not just your own performance, you also want to perform well for each other, whereas as an individual it’s just based on you.

“I definitely really, really enjoy team sports because if you do something wrong, you have people around you to pick you up.

“So far, I have played sevens in Paris and XVs against Italy and both of them were really amazing.”

“She deserves this chance,” head coach Munro said of the youngster.

“She’s been very positive around the camp, she’s certainly a bit of a livewire when it comes to playing the game, she’s aggressive, she’s dynamic, she’s fit and she comes from a judo background which seems to help.

“Rachel will set the tone for the way we want to play.”

McLachlan is one of two changes to the Scotland starting XV and key No.8 Jade Konkel is back after a long-term shoulder injury to win her 33rd cap.

Prop Mairi Forsyth and winger Bryony Nelson could debut off the bench too, but the Scots know they need to vastly improve from their 38-0 loss in Calvisano to Italy last time out.

“The players didn’t perform the way that they should have or the way that we trained to perform [in Italy], they kind of just went into their shells and didn’t come back out again,” Munro added.

“If we go into the game against Canada with that same mentality, we’re in big trouble. It’s very important that we start the game well.

“It’s really good to bring Jade back in. She’s experienced, she’s a strong ball carrier and she works hard. Other players look up to her, so she’s a bit of a role model in terms of the way that we want to play.

“She’ll carry the ball hard over the gain line, which is kind of what we lacked against Italy. She hasn’t played that much - only 60 minutes after being out for a good few months - so we’ll just see how she goes, but she’s certainly trained well over the last couple of days and is excited to be back.”

The match is live on BBC ALBA with a 7pm kick-off and will form part of a celebration of women and girls rugby.

Shawlands Academy and Biggar High School go head to head in schools finals at 2pm (under-15s) and 3.30pm (under-18s)

Scotland Women’s squad: Chloe Rollie; Lauren Harris, Lisa Thomson (C), Helen Nelson, Abi Evans; Lisa Martin, Mhairi Grieve; Lisa Cockburn, Lana Skeldon, Megan Kennedy, Emma Wassell, Nicola Howat, Siobhan Cattigan, Rachel McLachlan, Jade Konkel. Subs: Jodie Rettie, Siobhan McMillan, Mairi Forsyth, Lucy Winter, Louise McMillan, Jenny Maxwell, Bryony Nelson, Annabel Sergeant.