Tuesday 21 November 2017

Juggling act all part of Fitzpatrick's France adventure

Paula Fitzpatrick. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Paula Fitzpatrick. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Being offered the chance to play a season with Toulouse was one that was just too good to turn down for Paula Fitzpatrick and despite the fact that she continues to run her Irish sports science business from France, juggling the two has become a new way of life.

Fitzpatrick, who is a vital cog in Ireland's forward pack, was joined by team-mate Heather O'Brien in the south of France for a non-professional contract that runs until May.

When the pair arrived in Toulouse last September, a conversation with Trevor Brennan, who spent five years playing with the club, told them what to expect from a rugby-mad public.

"I've been over there for three months so far and playing in the Top 8," Fitzpatrick explained. "We're getting to play against these players every week and they'll be playing with this French team at the weekend as well. We'll be very familiar with them. Rucks are a big no-no.

"One of the first things we were told when we went over there, by Trevor Brennan actually, was that if you are being pushed into touch just throw the ball and somebody will be there. The last thing they want is for there to be a breakdown in play.

"He was really welcoming. We were brought straight to his place as soon as we got there. He gave us his contact details if we needed anything.

"There is no contract. It's not professional or anything. Our accommodation is taken care of but we (herself and O'Brien) have businesses at home so we work still from over there. We get the opportunity to put training above work over there, I suppose.

"It is very skilful over there. A lot of players wouldn't have taken up the sport until they got to college whereas they are playing over there since they were six so their skill levels are high."

Like the women's game in this country, it continues to grow rapidly in France and a large crowd is expected to turn out on Saturday night in Perpignan.

"There is probably more support for it over there," Fitzpatrick added. "It is growing all the time in Ireland but France has a much bigger playing base and especially in the south of France. They will support any rugby there, they love it. There are about 40 volunteers involved with the club who come out and get breakfasts and lunches ready and that kind of thing, physiotherapy and all the coaches involved with the club would be of a very high standard."

Irish clubs are hoping to soon follow the same path.

Irish Independent

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