Teenage sensation will reject overtures to remain committed to studies and domestic game
In her first week of Irish camp, Béibhinn Parsons and her team-mates assembled in the team room to hear a talk from a Rugby Players Ireland representative.
The subject was pension plans. As a blizzard of facts and figures were presented on a slew of slides, the Ballinasloe youngster was more concerned with getting her maths homework done before dark.
She was only 16, after all. Still too young to share a room with a team-mate due to child safety regulations.
Or have a post-match celebratory beer, which she may have been entitled to after nearly scoring a sensational try against the USA.
Three years on, she knows how to find the whitewash, doing so again twice last Saturday in the 45-0 demolition of Wales, the fourth and fifth of her nine-cap career.
And, although remarkably she has yet to play a game of senior club rugby, she heads into this weekend’s green-lighted Donnybrook clash against a crack French side oozing not only the confidence of youth, but also the wisdom of a veteran campaigner.
She demurs to dear old ‘Satchel’ Paige’s maxim that decrees ‘age doesn’t matter’.
“Yeah, at the start, the age gap being 16 was a huge thing and at the forefront of my mind,” she admits.
Last week, she revealed she was so overwhelmed she even mislaid her debut jersey on the eve of her USA debut.
“But as time has gone on and I’ve eased into the squad, I’ve earned my stripes a little bit. My team-mates trust me a bit more and they want to see what I can do.
“My confidence has grown and their confidence has grown in me. My age doesn’t cross my mind as much anymore. I wear a green jersey the same as they do. It’s not an issue anymore.”
Parsons is one of a handful of players who have been able to temporarily augment the 15-a-side game after the temporary suspension of the World Series event.
In normal circumstances, such an outrageously audacious talent might be arousing offers from overseas but, having just commenced (remotely) a biomedical science degree in UCD, Parsons is content to remain in Ireland.
Despite the absence of domestic fare – and even though in pre-pandemic times the competitive arena was limited – Parsons is patient enough to stick with a structure which, it is fair to say, hasn’t hindered her fledgling career thus far.
“I haven’t explored that area and I don’t really want to,” she says. “I want to get my degree in Ireland and I’m really enjoying Irish rugby and the Sevens programme.
“I think it’s an excellent place to be, I think it’s where I’ll get the highest quality of coaching at the moment so I’m very happy to stay in Ireland.
“I would definitely like to get my first club cap, I still haven’t got that. I think the extended interpros, the five matches really stood out to us.
“The AIL is great when it is up and running. We still need to grow the sport, especially on the women’s side – get people in and keep them there; that will only happen if we have a competitive competition.”
Captain Ciara Griffin describes Parsons as an old head on young shoulders and it’s plain to see why; she is confident in her obvious talents but not cocky; indeed, she appreciates that there are areas of her game that need development, including a need to roam in-field looking for work, rather than waiting in the wings.
“Yeah definitely, I think the best wingers get off their wing a lot and it’s a combination of being able to manipulate defenders on the edge and then also punching into midfield,” she says of the much more formidable task awaiting against the French.
“So that’s something I’ll be conscious of this weekend, and then of course if they commit more players to me or the likes of Dorothy Wall, that means that there’s holes elsewhere so we need to be sharp and be able to hit those other lines.”
Avonmore Protein Milk yesterday launched their new campaign for 2021, ‘Bring Your All’ with Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan and Irish and Connacht rugby player Béibhinn Parsons, joining their Brand Ambassador Team