Despite the loss to France at the weekend, Scottish women’s rugby is enjoying a bit of a boom period, with the national side putting together a string of terrific performances such as that narrow victory in Cardiff in the first round of this year’s Six Nations.

Beating France was always going to be a huge ask, and the visitors’ late try was frankly a bit of a kick in the teeth of the Scottish players and their fans as the home side deserved at least a bonus point for their stalwart efforts. To run the third-ranked team in the world so close shows the vast improvement the Scottish squad has made over the last year, and it’s no coincidence most have some sort of recent professional contract with the SRU.

It’s a good time, I think, to reflect on the history of the women’s game in Scotland and the early highlight that did so much to boost the women’s game – the Women’s World Cup of 1994, hosted here in Scotland.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of that groundbreaking tournament, at the end of next week there will be a play with music about it, performed at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. Such has been the buzz surrounding 90 Days that’s it’s already a sellout and anyone else wanting to attend will have to add their name to the list for cancellations, not that many are expected. It’s on Friday 12th, Saturday 23rd and Sunday 14th April at 7.30pm.

For transparency’s sake, I should say that it is being produced by my old friend Ed Crozier, the former President of the SRU, who has brought to the table his experience in producing such hit shows as The Big Picnic and The Celtic Story in Glasgow, and South Pacific and other West End spectaculars in London. He was a touch judge at the 1994 tournament.

The play is also the original brainchild of a former newspaper colleague, Sandra Colamartino, who was Scotland’s first women’s captain – I saw her score two tries in the first official Scottish women’s international against Ireland in 1993.   Sandra and her playing colleague from back then, Sue Brodie, successfully raised £10,000 through crowdfunding to get the show produced. 

I’ve also had the benefit of a chat with with writer Kim Millar and her enthusiasm for the project bubbles over – she knew nothing about rugby until she started speaking to Sandra and Sue, the full-back whose quiet determination and organising skill was at the heart of that 1994 tournament.

The title comes from the fact that Scotland’s rugby women stepped in to save the Cup after Netherlands pulled out of hosting in the face of intransigence by the International Rugby Board (IRB) the forerunner of World Rugby. The first Women’s World Cup had taken place in Wales in 1991 though there had been an unofficial world ‘festival’ in August, 1990, in New Zealand.  

To avoid a clash with the men’s World Cup, the decision was taken to have a three year gap and my recollection is that all was going swimmingly for the Dutch organisers with the tournament set for Amsterdam in April, 1994, until the IRB pulled the plug in January. The time wasn’t right for them, apparently, but the truth is that in those amateur days, they wouldn’t have a bunch of women claiming to play for a World Cup – a title they had copyrighted. 

The Dutch felt they had no choice and cancelled. The news arrived by fax after the Scotland squad had been at a training session and they went off to Todd’s Tap pub in Leith to digest the situation and a few beers. 

Out of that meeting came the decision that Scotland would host the World Cup, only it was called the Women’s World Championship to avoid hassle with the IRB. Sandra, Sue and the rest of the organising committee called in all sorts of favours, and to their credit the SRU and Scottish Sports Council backed them.

New Zealand and the Dutch pulled out in face of IRB threats but the reigning champions USA turned up as did their chief rivals England, the losing finalists in 1991. Spain pulled out at the last minute, and a squad of Scottish Students stepped in to make up the 12th team.  

Intrigued by the events, the Scottish public got behind the tournament, as did the press and broadcast media who cottoned on to this great story unfolding in Scotland. The host nation went out at the quarter-final stage and the final – refereed by Jim Fleming - was contested by England and the USA, the former prevailing at Raeburn Place by 38-23. 

The tournament was judged a huge success, and in October that year the IRB reversed its previous stance and urged the unions to integrate women’s rugby. In 1998, the IRB organised its first Women’s World Cup, and later acknowledged that the 1991 and 1994 tournaments had been World Cups. 

Women’s rugby has never looked back since 1994, so a huge debt of gratitude is owed to Sandra, Sue and all the other pioneers who made a bit of rugby history in just 90 days.