When Wicklow RFC lost 142-0 to Railway Union at the start of October, it was a bleak and soul-destroying defeat that would have hurt nobody more so than their star player Ella Roberts. Fast forward three weeks and she scored her club’s first AIL try, helping them to secure a historic first victory in the top division.
A few days later, it was announced that the 20-year-old was one of six debutants included in a 33-player Ireland Women’s squad for the Autumn Internationals against USA and Japan. While she didn’t make the match-day squad that faced the USA, head coach Adam Griggs has selected her on the bench to play Japan at the RDS.
“My goal is to get my Irish cap and help Wicklow to grow this season while getting more experience because that’s the one thing I really lack. I’ve only played three AIL games and one Interprovincial Series. I’m really grateful for these opportunities. It’s pretty surreal the last couple of months I’ve had, it’s been a good 2021,” buzzed the Leinster full-back.
Roberts came up through the ranks of the brilliant Wicklow Girls Youth Section where she started playing at the age of 12 for the U-15 team. But it wasn’t always the easiest road for the young player. She tore her ACL in October 2018 which forced her onto the sidelines for much of her final year in youth rugby.
“I was doing rehab pretty much all that year, then I turned 18 and I was lucky enough to get back into Leinster U-18s where I finished off my rehab and I got to play a couple of games.”
Her interest in rugby was encouraged by her father Frank Roberts who was captain of the Wicklow RFC men’s senior team during the 1997/’98 season. Her younger sister Beth Roberts is the current out-half for the AIL team and she is impressing in her own right being one of their standout players this season.
“Beth actually started playing rugby before me. She’s been playing since minis and even though she’s younger and shorter than me I look up to her in a lot of ways. She’s playing savage at the minute, she’s showing me up,” jokes the older sister.
The Wicklow woman has an array of talents. She became a 2021 Trinity Scholar in Physiotherapy in April. She admitted that juggling rugby and college life can sometimes be difficult.
“It can be tricky and I’ve actually had to defer my placement that I’m supposed to be on at the minute because of training and everything, but it’s good, you just have to manage your time well”.
The former student of East Glendalough School in Wicklow town really caught people’s attention when she burst onto the scene for Leinster in the 2021 Interpros. She made her debut off the bench against Connacht in the opening round of the competition.
However, it was in the game versus Ulster where she really announced herself, putting in a brilliant individual performance scoring two well-worked tries. In her usual modest nature, Roberts didn’t want to take much credit for the scores.
“I think I was lucky to get those two tries, I think everyone else kind of did the work and I was just lucky to get on the end of them,” she laughs.
Wicklow RFC is a real close-knit rugby community and a lot of their current AIL squad have grown up playing together at underage.
“We are all great friends, it’s so special and I can’t thank everyone enough for the support I’ve got especially since being called up to Leinster. I’d just like to thank Ronan Griffey who has been so dedicated to the girls youth section in the club, and of course my parents, sister and brother. They have been my rock.”