MEGAN Kennedy has been such a solid performer for Scotland this season that you could be forgiven for thinking she had been a fixture in the team for some time. Far from it.
In fact, having been out injured for two years, the Stirling County tighthead has not been a fixture anywhere for very long. But now, still only 21, she has made up for lost time, and will win her fourth cap this afternoon in the Six Nations Championship match against Ireland at Donnybrook.
After twice rupturing a cruciate ligament in her knee and needing four operations before she was up and running again, Kennedy’s initial hope was simply to return to playing at any level. Her determination has taken her a lot further than that.
“It came as quite a shock actually,” the Stirling University student said of her rapid rise. “It’s taken a while to get back. I was lucky as I had Academy support to see me through it, but it was tough. Not being able to run or work on anything except upper body was frustrating.
“I’m aware of the risks that come after so many injuries, but no one said to stop and I decided to go again. I get my knee heavily strapped for games, but it feels 100 per cent. I was just trying to get my foot in the door and see what could happen, so to have been starting has been great.”
Brain and brawn
Now in her fourth year of a sports journalism degree, Kennedy is currently writing a dissertation on women and the media, with specific reference to a certain tournament. “I’m looking at the Six Nations and how it is reported, looking at the level of coverage compared to men and the content itself and how women are portrayed, seeing if there’s been a shift. There’s definitely not as much coverage as the men’s, but the content is better than I thought it would be.”
Without making excuses for the gross imbalance in reporting on women’s and men’s sport, it remains a fact that the level of coverage of any team begins to rise once they become successful – and success has been very elusive for the national women’s team these past few seasons. After winning two home games in last year’s Six Nations, Shade Munro’s side have lost all three matches so far in this campaign, most agonisingly a one-point defeat in Wales that could so easily have brought a first away win since 2006.
Kennedy won her first cap in that match in Colwyn Bay last month, and kept her place for the two subsequent home games, in which Scotland lost by far wider margins against France and England but performed better against stronger opposition. Now the front-row forward believes the team is steadily learning how to put a complete performance together.
“We never give up anyway,” she added. “We know what we can bring to the table and since the Wales game I think we have shown we can compete with some of the best teams in the world. We plan to get more physical.”
For Munro, Kennedy’s all-round ability epitomises the qualities he wants his players to have. “She’s a mobile, fit, strong prop,” the head coach said. “She’s a modern-day prop – a type like David Sole, who was ahead of his time. She can run around and do other stuff and not just scrummage, which is what we need in the team.”