|Women’s Six Nations: Scotland v Ireland|
|Venue: Scotstoun Date: 8 February Time: 19:35 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on BBC ALBA|
Scotland hooker Lana Skeldon was four when she went to watch her mum play rugby. “I remember thinking ‘if she can do it I can do it’.”
Twenty-one years later, she has not only emulated mother Ann, who played for Hawick Ladies, but has also gone on to represent her country at every level.
Skeldon will make her 31st full international appearance on Friday as Scotland host Ireland at Scotstoun.
Here the Watsonians forward tells BBC Scotland about her inspirational parents, doing 12-hour shifts weighing cashmere jumpers, and her hopes for this year’s Six Nations.
‘Mum doesn’t hold back with criticism’
Being from the Borders, Skeldon has always been immersed in rugby.
Her father Michael also played, representing Hawick Harlequins, and it is from him that Skeldon gets her “calmness” when throwing into the line-out and – uncommonly for a front row – taking goal kicks.
But the competitive edge definitely came from her mother. “She’s very driven, and I’ve probably picked up a lot of that from her,” she says.
“She’s quite short like me so second row was an absolute no go, but she was so adaptable and could do anything and I wanted to be like that too from watching her.
“I just remember being like ‘wow, that’s mum playing’. She looked like she was having so much fun. I don’t think many in the squad will have mums who have played rugby.”
And while parents are often their children’s biggest fans, they can also be the most “brutally honest” of critics.
“She gives me feedback, put it that way,” said Skeldon. “Now I’m older she’s more likely to tell me exactly how it is – ‘you should have been better at this’, ‘you had a quiet day’, ‘I’ve seen you play better’.
“My dad says ‘do your best’ but she’ll go into the actual logistics – ‘why was the line-out like this’ or ‘why was the scrum like that?’ She’s totally to the point, and doesn’t hang back.”
‘I was weighing jumpers’
Rugby is not the only Borders tradition in which Skeldon has been enveloped, with the forward also having played her part in the region’s rich textile industry.
Before being awarded a Scottish Rugby 2021 contract – one which allows her to train full-time and runs through to the next World Cup – she worked in a cashmere factory in Hawick.
“I could be weighing the jumpers before they went through the washing system, or putting on the right collars – monotonous jobs. The only thing that changed was the colour or the weight,” Skeldon says.
“None of my jobs were sitting down. Being on your feet all day, then having to train at night was hard. My legs were just gone by that point.”
Skeldon also struggled with the lack of sleep, finding time to eat properly, and especially the isolation of training alone at night – all of which has been vastly improved since giving up the shifts.
Now based at Borders Academy, she can focus on rugby, coaching a group of local girls, and studying sport fitness and coaching with the Open University.
“I can push myself because I’ve got the energy and I’m not tied down by work,” she says.
Longer term Skeldon is not opposed to a spell away from Scottish rugby, like many of her team-mates who play in England and France.
“I’m more than willing to try something new,” she says. “I’m at a point of my career where it will be good to stretch myself on pitch and try somewhere else.”
‘We are good enough to compete’
Scotland had high hopes for this Six Nations campaign, but those ambitions took a dent with defeat by Italy last week.
The side’s record in previous years is eye-wateringly bad, but there has been a marked improvement over the past two campaigns under Shade Munro.
Trips to France and England are ominous challenges, but the Scots remain determined they can eke out home wins against Ireland and Wales – having beaten both in the past two seasons.
“We are good enough to compete with these teams,” she says. “It’s just that composure away from home.
“In years past, we’ve gone to France and it’s just been too much. The players weren’t used to coping with that so hopefully this year we will be ready, more ready than we have been, to play these games.”
Scotland team to face Ireland:
Chloe Rollie (Lille Metropole); Liz Musgrove (Hong Kong RFC), Hannah Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill), Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park, captain), Annabel Sergeant (Heriots); Helen Nelson (Montpellier), Mhairi Grieve (Firwood Waterloo); Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park), Lana Skeldon (Watsonians), Megan Kennedy (Stirling County); Emma Wassell (Heriots), Debs McCormack (Harlequins); Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning), Rachel McLachlan (Stirling County), Sarah Bonar (Loughborough Lightning)
Replacements: Jodie Rettie (Saracens), Katie Dougan (Gloucester Hartpury), Mairi Forsyth (Stirling County), Sophie Anderson (Hillhead Jordanhill), Nicola Howat (Edinburgh University), Sarah Law (Edinburgh University), Lisa Martin (Lille Metropole), Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough Lightning)