Monday 27 January 2020

O'Connor and Leinster ready to embrace 'momentous occasion'

O'Connor:
O'Connor: "We are aware of how big this is and how much of a momentous occasion this is." Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Hannah O'Connor was like every young kid growing up playing rugby in that she always dreamed of playing in the big stadiums.

While she may have to wait to get a first taste of running out at the Aviva Stadium, this evening will mark a historic occasion, both in O'Connor's career and women's rugby, as a club game is held at Twickenham for the first time.

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It is fitting that Harlequins provide the opposition (7.0 kick-off) as the English club have a strong Irish connection with internationals Gill Bourke, Anna Caplice and Leah Lyons all involved in the match-day squad.

O'Connor, who recently made her Ireland debut, will look catch the eye from No 8 and is relishing the chance to do so.

"It's like a double Christmas, the girls are really excited," she said.

"Everyone knows it (Twickenham) is the home of English rugby. Any sports person's dream is to play in the top stadiums within your field.

"To get the opportunity to go over and play there is fantastic and I am really excited for it.

"We are aware of how big this is and how much of a momentous occasion this is. We are definitely keen to make our mark and hopefully make it the first of many in the future."

Skippers

Ireland prop Lindsay Peat will line out in the back-row, while Sene Naoupu, who has played most of her rugby for Ireland in the centre, skippers Leinster from out-half.

The pack is bolstered by fellow internationals Linda Djougang and Aoife McDermott.

Ireland head coach Adam Griggs will be watching closely as the Six Nations is just around the corner. O'Connor is eager to catch the eye with that in mind.

"You just want to keep excelling and you want to be playing at the top of your game and be challenging for spots in both inter-provincial and national set-ups," she maintained.

"We have literally gone from having the interpros back into Irish camp and you've kept that fitness and speed of play up. The Six Nations would obviously be a big goal for me.

"I am focused on what is in front of me and at the moment this (Harlequins game) is the big one. We will see after that, hopefully we will keep progressing."

A milestone in women's rugby, Leinster and O'Connor will be out to ensure that they are not just making up the numbers against a strong Quins outfit.

Leinster Women - L Farrell-McCabe; G Miller; E O'Byrne-White, M Claffey, M O'Brien; S Naoupu (capt), A Hughes; K O'Dwyer, V Dabanovich-O'Mahon, L Djougang; D Earle, A McDermott; L Peat, N Ní Dhroma, H O'Connor. Reps: J Finlay, L Callan, C Dunne, C Cooney, N Byrne, V Hullon.

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