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Irving picked up rugby fast and ran with it

Given she had not picked up a ball until two years ago, Emily Irving's name stood out when the Scotland Women's squad was announced ahead of this weekend's pre-Six Nations get-together, writes Gary Heatly.

The 18-year-old centre is one of a number of new players who have been given a chance to impress new head coach Jules Maxton.

As a youngster growing up in Ayrshire, Irving was a footballer until the age of 13, and showed enough promise to be named in a Scotland under-17 development squad. Trying to balance travelling to training in Hamilton and school work became tricky, though, and Irving took a break from sport until early in 2012 - when a rugby taster session was held at her school Belmont Academy.

"Stuart Fenwick [the Ayr community rugby development officer] came along and we had a touch rugby session," said Irving, who hopes to be part of the side which will open the Six Nations against reigning champions Ireland at the end of the month. "He then asked me and a few others if we fancied getting a 10s team together for a tournament at Scotstoun. We did that and managed to win the event and from there my love of rugby began. I was given the chance to head to ­various regional camps and such like to help my progress."

That was helped further in the summer of 2012, when Ayr Ladies was established, with Irving playing for the side for the last season and a half. Last term she represented Scotland under-20s in matches against Finland and Hartpury College too. "The ladies section at Ayr has really taken off and we are going well," she said. "I also really enjoyed playing in the under-20s matches and learned a lot."

Irving will a 27-strong squad this weekend for an all-day training session on Saturday, before taking on an Army Select on Sunday. "Everything has happened really quickly and I can't quite believe I am now being given a chance to train with the full Scotland squad," she added. "It is an honour to be given this opportunity."

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