Tuesday 20 February 2018

O'Brien hopes Irish glory can boost girls' rugby

O'Brien: Ready to face the French
O'Brien: Ready to face the French

The Ireland Women's side continue their Six Nations campaign in Ashbourne tonight as they host France looking to build on last week's opening day win over Italy.

Munster and Ireland No 8 Heather O'Brien is relishing a very difficult challenge as her side look to bounce back after a defeat to Les Bleus in last year's Championship.

"The French game is always a big one because they can play any type of rugby," explains O'Brien, a physiotherapist.

"They can make the hard yards and they can play the fancy stuff so you don't know what to expect with them, which is brilliant. It's what makes rugby exciting so we're definitely looking forward to it."

The Highfield star scored one of five Irish tries in wet and windy Florence last Friday night and the Cork woman was relieved to start the campaign with a win.

"It was a bit scrappy with the conditions and they're always a physical team to play against," says O'Brien. "We haven't had a whole lot of time together as a squad so it was a relief to get a win under our belts.

"We're conscious that it wasn't perfect and there are things we need to improve on but scoring a few tries away from home is definitely a great start."

O'Brien first played rugby for the Murrayfield Wanderers while studying in Scotland. She didn't play in her teenage years as her local club didn't cater for girls' rugby at the time.

But the success of O'Brien and her team-mates on the international stage has been a catalyst for a huge increase in the formation of girls' and women's teams all over the country.

"The sport has gotten more attention off the back of the World Cup in the summer and the Grand Slam a few years ago," she says.

"When I was growing up there wasn't any team that I could have played for but at least now kids can play. And the more younger people who play the better, so that's definitely something we hope will continue."

Tonight's game will be streamed live on the IRFU website.

Tonight's game will be a very special occasion for the U-15 girls' sides from Cobh Pirates and Carrick on Suir. Both teams won a competition to provide a guard of honour for Ireland and France before kick-off and then play each other at half-time.

The competition was run by Munster Rugby with girls' sides from across the province invited to send in a video showcasing their rugby skills and showing what's special about their team.

The videos made by the girls of Cobh and Carrick were chosen as the best entries and they are sure to enjoy a special night in Ashbourne.

Ireland Women's Six Nations Fixtures:

Tonight - Ireland v France, 7:30, Ashbourne RFC

Friday, February 27 - Ireland v England, 7:30, Ashbourne RFC

Sunday, March 15 - Wales v Ireland, Noon, Swansea RFC

Sunday, March 22 - Scotland v Ireland, 1.0, Broadwood

Irish Independent

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