The Scotland squad arrived in Auckland a few days ago and have been acclimatising to the time difference and New Zealand in general under the watchful eye of sports scientist Fraser Menzies and the other members of the backroom team.
The last time Scotland played at Rugby World Cup was in 2010, so none of the current players have played on this stage before.
As a result, as they tackle Pool A alongside Australia, New Zealand and Wales they will be looking to their experienced players to lead by example.
Five of the 32-strong playing group have 50 caps or more – Sarah Law, Chloe Rollie, Lana Skeldon, Jade Konkel-Roberts and Emma Wassell – and Wassell really is a key player for them.
Between her debut in 2014 and earlier this year she played more than 50 consecutive games for her country and now has made it up to 57 appearances.
All to play for
Scotland, ranked 10th in the World Rugby Women’s Rankigs powered by Capgemini, open up their campaign against ninth-placed Wales at the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei on 9 October.
The two countries have had some excellent battles in recent years, including earlier in 2022 when Wales came back from 19-7 down early in the second half to defeat the Scots 24-19 in the Women’s Six Nations in Cardiff.
One game that Scotland remember more favourably was in 2017 when they edged out Wales 15-14 in the same tournament to give them their first Six Nations win for seven years.
“That was an amazing night for us at Broadwood Stadium,” Wassell, who is a qualified accountant and is currently on a sabbatical, recounts.
“A lot of the current squad were youngsters then and we were just finding our feet in the international game, but that gave us such a confidence boost.
“It showed us what we could do and that we were good enough and I think everything from that day forward has been building back to this point and getting Scotland back where we feel like we belong on the world stage.
“As a squad we are experienced enough to embrace the challenges that will be coming our way in this brilliant competition.”
Wassell’s journey to now
If you had said to Wassell 12 years ago that she would now be in New Zealand preparing for her country’s biggest game in a long time, versus Wales, she simply would not have believed you.
“When I first started playing the game at 15, I had no thoughts in my head other than to have fun and at that stage I certainly did not think I’d ever play for Scotland or go to a World Cup,” the player from the Aberdeenshire area who will be cheered on by mother Pauline in Whangarei, said.
“Once I got to grips with the game, I fell in love with it and then opportunities start to present themselves and you just want to do the best that you can.
“I had a great few years playing locally for Ellon in the north east of Scotland and then, after school, I moved down to Edinburgh to study at Heriot-Watt University.
“While I was there, I began playing for Murrayfield Wanderers who were the top women’s club side in Scotland at the time.
“I’ll be honest, the first training session that I went to with Wandies was very hard and it wasn’t a lot of fun for me, but it made me realise the levels I had to reach if I wanted to start performing in senior rugby.
“I had come from playing U18s rugby with all my mates at Ellon to moving up to senior rugby in a new city. And I was training with a squad where I knew nobody and which included so much talent, some of whom were Scotland caps. So, you can imagine it was fairly daunting, but I soon began to love it.
“So, I kept going along to the sessions and learning and it was one of the best things I ever did.”
Wassell clearly began to impress many onlookers quickly because, after a stint with the Scotland U20s, she was called-up to train with the full national team squad.
“I had doubts at that time too, I was saying to myself ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this’, but because everything was moving so quickly, I was just trying to take things in my stride and go with the flow,” she explains.
“Being in the wider Scotland squad was a step up from the U20s and Wandies again, but I kept pushing myself because I wanted to see how far I could take my rugby.
“I went on to make my Scotland debut off the bench against Ireland in the 2014 Six Nations and fast forward a few years – which have gone in a flash – and I’m preparing to play in a World Cup.
“I’m still pinching myself about playing on such a big stage, but as a squad we are ready. We have a great blend of youth and experience, and we want to show a wider audience what we are all about.”
Photo Credit: Rugby People