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'The only difference is full-time contracts' - Ireland's Aoife Doyle determined to bridge gap on return to 15s

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30 January 2020; Aoife Doyle during an Ireland Women's Rugby press conference at the IRFU High Performance Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

30 January 2020; Aoife Doyle during an Ireland Women's Rugby press conference at the IRFU High Performance Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

30 January 2020; Aoife Doyle during an Ireland Women's Rugby press conference at the IRFU High Performance Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The last time Aoife Doyle played for Ireland, she won a Six Nations winners medal.

Such is the gap that now exists in the tournament, that successful 2015 campaign feels like a very long time ago now.

England and France are operating on another level, which leaves the chasing pack looking to somehow try and make up the considerable ground.

Doyle hasn't returned to the setup from the sevens programme to accept second best, and the winger certainly won't be going into the tournament thinking that Ireland cannot beat anyone on their day.

"When you take all of that away, it's just you and the player in front of you," Doyle said.

“They have 15 girls, we have 15 girls and now we have a world-class facility out here (Abbotstown) and world-class coaches.

"The only difference is full-time contracts, but at the moment we're only thinking about playing Scotland on Sunday, and when we come up against France and England we'll worry about them.

"But at the end of the day, it's 15 girls against 15 girls.”

Ireland can worry about England and France later, but for now, the only thing they need to focus on is getting their campaign off to a winning start against Scotland in Donnybrook tomorrow (1.0).

It has been quite the journey for Doyle, a Limerick native, and having made it back to the Six Nations, she is ready to go again.

"I got my first cap in 2015, won the Six Nations that year under (Niamh) Briggsy and then I went playing Sevens for six years. I retired this year and this is my first time back with the 15s since then.

"I was there six years and gave it everything, and I was ready for a change. I want to get my college degree now and go back to normal life, while playing for Ireland. I'm hoping to start primary teacher in September.

"You're in a bubble (with sevens), and you're travelling the world, basically, every few weeks.

"It's been a huge change but I'm still able to represent Ireland while playing rugby, so I'm delighted.

"It's been hard crossing over again, there's double the amount of people on the pitch so I've found it hard to swap over but the girls have been amazing and it's like riding a bike, the more you do it, the more it comes back to you.

"The ultimate goal when you're part of any competition is to win it, I suppose.

"But it's just very hard to put yourself in that position, thinking about the end of the tournament when it hasn't even started, so basically all we've been talking about is Sunday, the first game. And it's hard to look past that.”

Online Editors