Sunday 17 December 2017

Molloy's inside track on England could be just what doctor ordered

Ireland's Claire Molloy plays her club rugby in England with Bristol. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ireland's Claire Molloy plays her club rugby in England with Bristol. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Claire Molloy arrived back in Dublin last night on her usual weekly flight as she joined her Ireland team-mates for today's first training session ahead of Friday's Grand Slam showdown with England.

It's a routine that she is all too familiar with as she makes the short hop across the pond and leaves behind her part-time role as a doctor in Wales.

"I know Cardiff airport really well," the 28-year-old Galway native laughs. "I know the security staff at this stage, the check-in staff - I think they recognise me but they get a bit confused when I turn up in my work clothes."

The monotonous journey goes back a while, including to the 2013 Grand Slam success during which Molloy flew back and forth while studying for her final medical exams. A few old faces from that historic evening in Italy remain but, by-and-large, this is a new-look squad who are determined to write their own history.

"With Niamh Briggs being injured this year, I think that makes me the oldest head," Molloy says.

"It's taken me nine years to get to 52 caps this week. I don't think there will be girls who will be waiting nine years like that again. Ciara Griffin, or 'Junior' as we know her, she only started last year and she's racking them up."

Ireland will go into Friday's hugely anticipated clash as underdogs but given that Molloy plays her club rugby in England with Bristol, she knows some of the opposition better than most.

"We've had quite a few girls get called up to the England squad this year so it's been great for club level. The back-row at times has been entirely from my club.

"The coaches will have done the analysis but if there is anything I feel I can help out with, I will. It's dialogue and we'll work through it as a pack and as a team."

The openside flanker is a former footballer and played for Galway in their 2005 All-Ireland final defeat to Cork, which marked the start of the Rebelettes' staggering dominance.

While it wasn't an easy decision to turn her back on the sport she grew up playing, with Grand Slam and Six Nations medals in her back pocket, there is absolutely no regret.

"I came back and played a couple of seasons with them," she recalls.

"Obviously it was very difficult living in Wales and coming back for the summer but not for the whole summer.

"The girls were very kind to me and let me come in for the matches. You can't get away without the training any more. There are such quality players there, I would love to put a Galway shirt on again but I'm realistic - there's no way without training."

Ireland have been steadily improving since they scraped a win over Scotland in the opening round and Molloy believes her side have handled the added expectation in what is a huge year for women's rugby in this country.

"We were accountable when we were playing well and I think that's something that was very different this year," she adds.

"With increased coverage you were let know very rapidly that we weren't preforming to our best. There was no hiding away from it. It's driven by everyone. We have very high standards."

Irish Independent

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