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Thursday 28 August 2014

Jersey pullers on the hunt for stray players

Nabbing a rugby star for the night has become a sport in itself

Niamh Horan

Published 04/08/2013 | 05:00

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Holly Carpenter, left, with boyfriend and rugby star Cian Healy

THEY'RE known in rugby social circles as "jersey pullers". Unabashed about their targets and dismissive of other halves, they are the stuff of which WAGs' nightmares are made.

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The new phenomenon, which has spawned a range of T-shirts, mugs and social networking sites, is defined i the urban dictionary as girls who attach themselves to a member of a team.

And they're stalking a player near you. Their maxim?

"If she can't keep him – she shouldn't have him." And they're not about to let a little stumbling block such as a girlfriend – or even a wife – get in their way.

Stealth-like in their pinpointing, tracking and snaring of Ireland's top sporting alpha-males, their number one weapon of choice is Twitter.

It is the modern-day, social-networking equivalent of Israeli military radar.

Lions coach Warren Gatland was the first in the camp to acknowledge the issue publicly during the recent tour of Australia.

He baulked at how a group of girls – dolled up to the nines – would "happen to be passing through" a restaurant or pub every time one of the players made the mistake of tweeting their location.

"It's crazy," he said, wide-eyed at the phenomenon.

The jersey pullers have even followed players to far-flung destinations, jetting thousands of miles for the chance to hang out by the pool or in a nightclub while the stars are in holiday mood. And far away from the prying eyes of home.

Such was the intense interest in the Lions rugby players that Gatland was moved to hire a team of burly security guards for the tour in order to "control" the situation.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, England rugby captain Mike Tindall – who is married to British Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter, Zara Philips – was infamously captured on CCTV in a clinch with a blonde.

Footage of the steamy incident leaked online, sparking a tabloid scandal which helped destabilise the England team's World Cup campaign beyond repair.

Back home, Holly Carpenter, Ireland's top model and other half of Irish rugby ace Cian Healy, admits she regularly spots the jersey puller troop.

"I have been up in the VIP section of Krystle on lots of occasions and I've seen girls just spending their entire night standing by the barrier hoping to get spotted and asked in by one of the guys," she told the Sunday Independent.

"When I met Cian I didn't know who he was. In comparison to what he was used to – I think it was really refreshing," she said.

Sunday Independent

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