CARLA Di Rollo has an unusual relationship problem. There's none of the usual run-of-the-mill stuff such as boyfriends phobic about commitment, or interfering mothers, or partners with penchants for getting lagered up with their mates. Instead, Di Rollo's predicament is that her boyfriend thinks she likes rugby more than she likes him.

Listening to her waxing lyrical about the unparalleled joys of the game - the team spirit, the camaradarie, the buzz that lasts for hours after each match, the fact that nothing, either on or off the pitch, compares - makes me think he probably has a point.

His friends might say he should consider himself lucky. But how would their fragile male egos cope if they were having to compete with the scrum for a girl's attention?

It's worth pausing for thought because Di Rollo is not alone. In the testosterone-fuelled world of rugby, times are changing. This Sunday Scotland's women's team will become the first in the northern hemisphere to play in their international stadium.

In a development being billed as a ground-breaking move for all-inclusive rugby, the squad will face Sweden at Murrayfield in a curtain-raiser to the men's match against Fiji. It follows months of lobbying by the women's game in Scotland and highlights how far the sport has come since it was established in the 1980s with university teams playing friendlies, prior to developing into an eight-team division one in the late 1990s.

Now, in the under-14 age group, 40% of participants playing rugby are girls, who will have the choice of 30 senior teams as they progress through the ranks. High profile matches have previously been allowed on the back pitches at Murrayfield, but never on the main ground, though this sort of curtainraiser is common in the southern hemisphere. When I meet the squad before a trial match at Murray-

field, there is a palpable sense of excitement about the prospect of running out at Murrayfield to represent their country.

''It will be a massive honour,''

says Karen Findlay, a proud internationalist who captained the team last year and boasts 50 caps. ''It's a hugely positive thing for the sport. In England, the women have been trying to arrange it at Twickenham for a couple of years, and for us to get it first . . . well I know they're not happy.''

Based in Richmond and working as a police officer, the 34-year-old, who plays as loose-head prop, began playing the game while at university in Edinburgh. As with her team-mates, she became involved in the male-dominated sport not because of any desire to chalk up a victory in the battle of the sexes, but simply because of a passionate love of the game. Whether she is playing for club or country, she gets a buzz every time she puts on her shirt and runs out to play. ''There is nothing like it. You've got to be extremely mentally and physically fit, but

the high you get after a match is indescribable.''

When quizzed on the key differences between a pitch brimming over with oestrogen as opposed to testosterone, other than the obvious issues of strength and speed, she insists they are insignificant. ''They are exactly the same,'' she says. ''The women's game is as fast and aggressive as the men's.''

While Findlay insists there are no differences on the pitch, she does wonder whether her male counterparts who are full-time professionals, would have fared as well had they had to juggle the demands of an arduous seven-days-a week training schedule with a full-time job, often involving shifts or being on call.

When I ask her whether, as a woman, she does not worry about the prospect of inflicting damage on an opponent, she gives me a sympathetic look. ''If I did, I shouldn't and wouldn't be playing the game. Or any other competitive sport for that matter.''

The day before I met the team, a few of my male friends took it upon themselves to compose potential headlines for the piece. ''Scrum dykes,'' shouted one to nods and chortles of approval. ''Lesbians with balls,'' piped up another, earning himself a slap on the back. As their suggestions degenerated to the unprintable, I proudly informed them that Scotland's women's team was ranked higher in the world than the men's (sixth as against seventh) and were the reigning European champions. Needless to say, it fell on deaf ears.

The incident might say a lot about the male company I keep, but it also reflects a prevailing stereotype that women who participate in traditionally male-dominated sports are big and butch.

Some of them look incredibly strong and powerful. But, with 15 different positions to play, female rugby players come in all shapes and sizes, and many are surprisingly sprightly and nimble.

Di Rollo, a petite 23-year-old blonde, and Rachael Nicolson, an even slighter 19-year-old, are two of a growing band of young women who don't fit the stereotype but who are sacrificing their social lives to play a game they adore. Such is her dedication to the sport that Di Rollo, a radiographer who plays for Lismore, faces the improbable difficulty of trying to convince her disgruntled boyfriend that there is room in her life for both of them. ''It takes up a lot of time,'' she says. ''I train every night and sometimes get a bit of hassle from the boyfriend.''

But like Findlay, Di Rollo can think of no better way to spend her spare time, despite getting a bit of stick from some of her peers. ''People are often surprised when I say I'm a rugby player. They say I don't look like one because I'm too wee. You also get the usual crap from people who say things such as, 'What do you do use your handbag for?'.'' She laughs sardonically. ''But nothing compares to rugby. I can't think of anything worse than going to the gym or going swimming or running. They're all so boring.''

Nicolson, a scrum-half who is from Lochaber but plays with Hillhead/Jordanhill while studying maths at Strathclyde University, is among a new breed of young players benefiting from the development of the sport in schools. She is one of the youngest among the 44 to be selected for the initial squad and knows her chances of making the final team are slim.

But she is delighted to have progressed this far and is setting her sights on the longer term. ''Hopefully, five years down the line all our international matches will be played at Murrayfield,'' she says. ''That would be a dream come true.''

With luck, in five years Scotland's women's rugby team will play all their international matches at

Murrayfield, and hopefully those matches will be covered on the sports pages alongside the men's matches rather than in a separate feature.

Now that would be a ground-breaking development for all-inclusive rugby.