She may be an apprentice in her chosen career of accountancy but having turned 24 on 28 December, Emma Wassell is already a time-served star of the Scottish women’s rugby team. The former pupil of Ellon Academy has played 30 times without a break for her country in the engine room of the scrum and lineout, the second row.

When you meet her, you can see why she has reached such lofty heights. ‘I am just a little shy of six feet tall,’ says Emma, whose playing career
took off when she joined Murrayfield Wanderers, while completing a four-year degree in accountancy and finance at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University.

‘I was into gymnastics at school but once I tried girls’ rugby at Ellon, I was completely hooked,’ she adds. Her aptitude for the game was swiftly recognised and she progressed through the ranks of the Under 18 and Under 20 women’s squads to make a winning start on her debut in the Scottish Under 20 team’s defeat of Finland at Lasswade on a freezing day early in 2013.

‘It was a huge step up for me at age 17 progressing as I did in the game,’ she says. ‘As much as I loved rugby, I was terrified and despite the support of my mum Pauline, I think she thought I was mad. However, before we knew it, I won my first full cap for Scotland away to Ireland in the
first game of the 2014 Six Nations championship. I came on as a sub for the last 20 minutes and that framed cap has pride of place in my flat in Ellon.’

Alas, Emma had to endure 17 defeats in a row in the championship before Scottish women, bolstered by the influence of a full-time coach, secured a 15-14 home win over Wales in 2017 and, wonderful to relate, also beat Italy in that same tournament . ‘That gave us a huge boost,’ says Emma, whose late father, David, was a stalwart of Ellon Rugby Club. ‘I’m sure his love of the sport has always inspired me and now our squad are seriously focused on trying to qualify for the next world cup in New Zealand in 2021. We were bitterly disappointed to lose narrowly to Spain in two qualifying games to miss out on the 2017 championship.’

It’s a tough old game and not surprisingly Emma has war wounds to remind her of her all-action role. She has to strap up her right shoulder before matches but hopes to make it through to take the field in the shrine of rugby in 2021.

But first things first. Emma is in the audit department at Anderson, Anderson & Brown LLP in Kingswells and has her final chartered
accountancy exams to pass. Supporting all her endeavours is her boyfriend of seven years, policeman Calum Stewart, who is based at Peterhead. ‘He has been a great support,’ says Emma, who scored her first try on her 30th appearance for Scotland when the team lost narrowly to Canada at the Glasgow Warriors ground at Scotstoun
last November.

‘Here’s to the next one,’ she adds. ‘Roll on the 2019 Six Nations tournament due to start on 1 February with Scotland playing
Italy at Scotstoun.”

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