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Change is proving as good as a rest for rejuvenated Beattie

MUCH was made about Johnnie Beattie overhauling father John's tally of international rugby caps when he played for Scotland against Australia 10 days ago, but their cumulative 51 appearances in the dark blue shirt pales alongside the 72 already earned by the youngest member of the family.

Jenny Beattie believes her progression had stalled at Arsenal but thinks her move to Montpellier will improve her
Jenny Beattie believes her progression had stalled at Arsenal but thinks her move to Montpellier will improve her

Jenny Beattie, who is just 22, made her debut for the Scotland women's football team when she was 17 and, along with former Arsenal team-mate Kim Little, quickly established herself as an automatic choice. But having played at full-back and striker, it is only in the last 12 months that she has settled into her favoured role of central defender.

For the first time in a career which has also encompassed Queen's Park and Celtic, Beattie is also playing in that position week in, week out for her new club Montpellier. She moved to the south of France from Arsenal in July and is revelling in her new surroundings despite a 4-1 loss to Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday.

"I was ready for a change," she says. "I loved every minute of being at Arsenal but wasn't progressing. I needed a new experience."

Arsenal trained only two nights a week before the arrival of Scottish manager Shelley Kerr at the start of the year but, although that was doubled, Beattie is benefitting from a much more intense regime at Montpellier. "We probably do more technical sessions in a week than I did in a season," she says. "It is going to improve me as a player."

Montpellier is France's fastest-growing city and the Beattie family are doing their bit. Brother Johnnie, who plays for the city's rugby side, was first to settle, taking his fiancee - now wife - Jen with him. Another Scottish rugby internationalist, Jim Hamilton, also plays for Montpellier.

"I stayed with Johnnie and Jen for the first month, but I didn't want to trash their marital bliss for too long so now I've got my own apartment," Beattie explains. "There is a great family atmosphere at the football club, where the men's team and women's team are treated exactly the same. We share the training complex and say hello to each other when we arrive at 10am. At Arsenal our paths never crossed."

Although they have their own stadium, Beattie's side play some games at the men's ground. That is where they faced Lyon, who won the Champions League in 2011 and 2012, were beaten finalists in 2010 and 2013, and are perhaps the foremost women's club in the world. Lyon have won the last seven French titles and are firmly on course for an eighth. It was a surprise when they lost to Turbine Potsdam in this season's Champions League, even if Lisa Evans' side are themselves former winners as well as being enduring mainststays of the sport.

Two French clubs qualify for the Champions League, but Lyon's elimination in the last 16 was preceded by Paris Saint-Germain's in the previous round. Following on France's tame exit from Euro 2013, it has been a disappointing year for a nation determined to oust Germany from its European perch. "There is a sense of disappointment that both teams have been knocked out so early," admits Beattie. "But I think Lyon are the best team in Europe and PSG, who have had a massive amount of investment in recent years, are catching up with them."

That makes it difficult for clubs such as Montpellier, who slipped from third in the table to fourth after the Lyon defeat, to qualify for the Champions League, something Arsenal did in all four years Beattie played for them. She also won numerous domestic honours. "You could maybe say Lyon are untouchable at the moment," Beattie says. "But second down to fifth is pretty competitive and we're all taking points off each other."

On Sunday, Beattie was up against players of the calibre of Lotta Schelin, the Swedish striker, and American midfielder Megan Rapinoe, as well as the best players in the French national side. "They brought on Rapinoe in the second half and her pace was the deciding factor," says Beattie. "It was a learning curve and we're looking forward to playing them again in the second half of the season."

If there has been one downside to the move to France it is that her club are not willing to release her for Scotland's trip to Brazil this month. "Of course it's a disappointment," she concedes. "I'm hoping it's not a once in a lifetime opportunity I've missed out on. But we have a job to do here at Montpellier."

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