Scotland Women captain Rachel Malcolm insists that the whole population is in the same boat at the moment as we contend with social distancing and lockdown to battle Coronavirus.
It’s now more than two months since Philip Doyle’s side played their last match, with their Women’s Six Nations clash against France at Scotstoun, and their subsequent trip to Wales postponed after one of Malcolm’s team-mates contracted COVID-19.
Even before that, their campaign had been disrupted – their match in Italy postponed due to the outbreak in the Lombardy region they were due to play in, and their match with England shifted from their spiritual home in Glasgow along the other end of the M8 to an empty BT Murrayfield due to Storm Chiara.
Looking back, back-row Malcolm – who took on the captaincy this season – admits that was a “really unfortunate time.”
“We had been faced with challenge after challenge and it got to the time when it was a bit comical 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.
“Though we did not get an opportunity to show it on the pitch, what we were doing on the pitch was getting better and better throughout the Six Nations.
“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.”
Malcolm admitted that the players themselves were not affected by the last-minute postponement of their match in Italy due to the Coronavirus outbreak there.
“When you are in camp it is quite an intense environment and you don’t have a lot of spare time,” she said, speaking to the media on a Zoom call this afternoon (Wednesday).
“When we arrived, we had a couple of good training sessions, 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.
“We were not hugely distracted at all by what was going on elsewhere, we were just focussed on the game, as any athlete would be in that situation.
“When things changed last minute, our management dealt with absolutely everything so we had no distraction from that point of view.
“They were phenomenal getting us organised and getting us home as quickly as they did. I would not say there was a huge amount of fear in the squad, it was just togetherness throughout.
When asked about the player’s diagnosis with COVID-19, Malcolm said: “It was probably surprise more than anything because at that that point it was not as widespread as it is now.
“We were supported by 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, that was the main thing and all we could take from it.”
Malcolm and her team-mates knew that news likely meant the end of their campaign – for now at least – but the 28-year-old, who celebrates her birthday this weekend, admits the scale of the pandemic in the UK has been a surprise.
“We were probably aware at the time that probably meant the end of our championship, just because we knew the risk of transmission, any of the players or coaches we came in contact with.
“In terms of the pandemic we saw break out in the UK, I don’t think anyone saw that coming.
“It has turned out to be a huge thing to affect our country.”
And having had experience of the virus earlier than most – certainly in the UK – the Loughborough Lightning back-row had some words of wisdom.
“We are all in the same positions whether we are athletes or not with this pandemic.
“It is just sticking to the guidelines and if you are an athletes sticking to the guidelines of your team doctor, physios and management.
“Just doing what you are told and supporting each other the best you can.”
Image caption: Scotland Women captain Rachel Malcolm in action. for her country. Image credit: Fotosport/David Gibson