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Evie Gallagher: 'Every time I go out on the pitch I want to be a better rugby player'

By Gary Heatly
Evie Gallagher of Bristol Bears talks to the media after the game as Bristol Bears Women play Loughborough Lightning Women in a Premiership Women’s Rugby fixture on February 23, 2024 at Ashton Gate in Bristol, England. (Photo by Andy Watts/Bristol Bears)

All season people in the know have been saying very complimentary things about Bristol Bears and Scotland back-row Evie Gallagher, but this quiet, hard-working character prefers to do her own talking on the pitch.

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It has been a long campaign for the 23-year-old with Scotland’s first game against South Africa in WXV 2 having taken place on October 13 in Cape Town.

Now, over eight months later and with a Guinness Women’s Six Nations having been played in the middle, Gallagher is preparing for a PWR final with the Bears on Saturday versus Gloucester-Hartpury.

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A lot has happened between running out at the Danie Craven Stadium and running out at Sandy Park in Exeter in a few days, but one thing that has never wavered is Gallagher’s consistency in terms of performance.

Indeed, she has got better and better having helped Scotland win the WXV 2 title, win two matches in the Six Nations and then been named Bristol’s player of the season in her first year at the club.

Before the Six Nations got underway in March, Scotland’s record cap holder Donna Kennedy, herself a back-rower of some repute in her day, said: “Evie is a phenomenal player. When she was at Worcester I did some back-row coaching sessions and I thought the potential and the skillset there was absolutely phenomenal.

“She has grown since then and she is going to go a long way.”

Fast forward a few weeks to when Scotland pushed France hard in the showpiece tournament and the national team skipper Rachel Malcolm said: “Evie is the heartbeat of this team at the minute. She’s leading the way in terms of her carries, she punches well above her weight in everything she does.

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“She’s a properly good rugby player and she has had quite a bit of exposure at this level now and she is just getting better every single game.”

Then, just this week in the build-up to the final, Bears head coach Dave Ward said: “Evie is our player of the year, I don’t think I can give her any higher praise than that.

“When we signed her [after WXV 2 following the demise of Worcester Warriors] she was someone I had really wanted to get on board.

“It was a big moment to get her and she’s helped us to kick on because, in terms of the way she plays, she gives us something that no other player does.

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“The sky is the limit for her, I really mean that. Her attitude is excellent and the way she trains and the way she plays shows that.”

How does Gallagher, the Stirling County and Edinburgh University product with 27 international caps to her name, react to such praise?

“Sometimes I hear that kind of praise and think ‘people are just being too nice’,” down-to-earth Gallagher said.

“For me, it is about taking confidence from what people are saying about me and it is great to know that teammates, coaches and others in the game are backing me.

“However, there is a balance to be struck and I don’t get carried away by things like that and I just always focus on my next game because it is simple, every time I go out on the pitch I want to be a better rugby player and put in a better performance than I did the game before.

“I just want to keep improving and I really don’t feel like I have reached my limit as yet or anywhere close to it, there is plenty more to come.

“I just try to take the confidence from what others say to me and really use it to fuel my performances to help my team out whether that be Bristol or Scotland.

“When I am on the pitch I want to be the best version of myself and I’ll just keep learning and improving.”

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In the PWR semi-final win at Saracens on June 9th, Alisha Butchers at six, Gallagher at seven and player of the match Rownita Marston-Mulhearn at number eight worked very well as a unit to help their side come through 29-21 at the StoneX.

The back-row trio are likely to have a big part to play again if the Bears are to defeat defending champions Gloucester-Hartpury at the weekend and Gallagher said: “We are all quite different characters and players, but when we come together it clicks.

“Lish [Butchers] is such a skilful player while Ro [Marston-Mulhearn] is so lovely off the pitch, but on the pitch is one of the scariest players I’ve seen and I am glad I am on her side and not against her!

“Seriously though, we all get on really well and that has helped us form connections on the pitch.

“We compliment each other and, as a pack in general, I think things have come together well this season.

“Looking ahead to the game, Gloucester-Hartpury are an exciting team, they have very good players and they are defending champions who finished top of the table for a reason, but I believe in our attack and what we try to do when we have the ball and I’m looking forward to the challenge that is ahead.

“Our two league fixtures were close during the season [Gloucester-Hartpury winning both] and we know that we can compete with them, we have belief that if we get it right we can win at the weekend.

“It would mean a lot for me to win the title in my first season at the club.”

While she was in South Africa helping Scotland to win WXV 2 at the tail end of 2023, Gallagher found out that her then club Worcester Warriors were going under.

She was worried and not sure what the future held, but she admits she could not have found a better new home than with the Bears.

“This has been a brilliant move for me both personally and as a rugby player,” the Scottish Rugby contracted player who missed the last Rugby World Cup through injury explained.

“I loved my time at Worcester, so when we were out in South Africa for WXV 2 and I heard the news out of the blue that I didn’t have a club to go back to it was quite a low point.

“My housemate Lana Skeldon and others who were at WXV 2 were in the same boat so we helped each other through it. Thankfully myself and Lana ended up at the same club when we got back and Bristol could not have ended up being a better fit for me.

“Training and playing with a whole host of internationalists just pushes me on to keep getting better while we have excellent facilities here.

“Being here with Lana and fellow Scotland players Meryl Smith and Elliann Clarke has also made the move that bit easier and I am really enjoying my rugby just now.”

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Tom 1 hours ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

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