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Scotland's stuggles help sharpen focus

Scotland's Lucy Millard (pictured right) has 46 caps for her country and boasts an incredible record of scoring 35 tries in national colours. A former Scotland Women's player of the year, she talks about the build-up to the World Cup in her first blog for www.scrumqueen.com. She tells us about Scotland's tough qualification process and about playing her club rugby in England this season.

"This time next year it will all be over, the hype, the build-up, the blood, sweat and tears. But until then, for myself, and all of my Scotland team mates who have their sights set on playing a part in next year's World Cup, is the date beyond which we cannot see.

There are training camps, proposed international friendly fixtures and the 2010 6 Nations before then, during which we will all be staking a claim for selection - always focusing on the game at hand but with the ultimate goal of a place in the World Cup firmly in our heads.

World Cup qualification, for us, has been a fairly long and nerve-wracking process. Last year's 6 Nations carried a lot of pressure, with the top four spots all being guaranteed a place. We finished fifth and that meant a trip to the European Championships in Stockholm where Russia, Belgium and Holland stood between us and the World Cup.

The slightly longer qualification process was, I think, a good thing (I can say that now that we have safely qualified!). It gave us a week together as a squad, and provided some of our younger squad members with their first taste of international rugby. Following on from the Euros, there was the usual fitness testing and training over the summer which led into a 'Regional Series a series of games partly designed to act as an extended trial. Essentially this involved our top 50 players competing against each other over three games.

I played in the first two, as those of us playing club rugby in England were released for the last game. Hopefully this run of games gave players the opportunity to build on the training which has been put in over the summer since the Euros.

I think the position we found ourselves in, fighting for a place at next year's World Cup, has sharpened the focus of a lot of the players and we have been fortunate enough to have access to individual skills coaches as well as top class strength and conditioning facilities at Murrayfield.

Personally, I've decided this year to play my club rugby in England, which I've so far enjoyed and found a great challenge. The travelling to Newcastle, and particularly to the away games, can be long, but Mel (Berry, a fellow blogger) travels down as well so we have numerous scintillating conversations about the never ending work-train-eat-sleep cycle which any player reading this will empathise with.

Having said that I am writing this from Edinburgh airport, about to jet off for a short break in Majorca, so I can't complain too much after a hard few months of training, I'm looking forward to a break, and hope to come back refreshed and ready for the hard season ahead."