This article appeared on on Tuesday, November 14th.

It is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author. 


An A&E doctor in Cardiff, Claire Molloy captained the Irish team during this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup and was part of the 2014 team which beat the Black Ferns; the first ever Irish team to beat New Zealand at rugby.

We recently spoke to Claire about finding balance, smashing goals and learning from bad experiences on the pitch.

What does fitness mean to you?

Fitness to me means being healthy and being ready to excel on the rugby pitch; as well as prevent injuries while on it.

Was sport always of interest to you or did you discover an aptitude and go from there?

I have always been sporty, as a child I played every sport I could and found that I was reasonably OK with a ball in hand. Before rugby I played Gaelic football for Galway, I was lucky enough to play in Croke Park in the 2005 final against Cork. Then when I moved to Wales, I took up rugby and found my football skills crossed over nicely. I got my first cap for Ireland in 2009.

What was it like to captain the Irish team during the Women’s Rugby World Cup?

It was a massive honour and a hugely humbling experience. It changed my focus as a player, I had prepared that season with the focus of being the best I could for the team and that changed immediately to a team focus; to thinking about how I could be the best captain for the girls on and off the pitch. The support for us was amazing and it was great to have a opportunity to be a role model for young girls across the country.

What’s been your personal sporting highlight?

Beating the Black Ferns at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France. We beat them in the pool stages and knocked them them out of the tournament. We were the first ever Irish team to beat New Zealand at rugby. I met Joe Schmidt after the game, himself and Johnny Sexton came to watch, and I was cheeky enough to say: “It’s your turn now.” Watching the men beat the All Blacks in Chicago last year was special .

Do you still set goals and work towards new aims?

Rugby is becoming more and more competitive, I am constantly challenged to improve as a player in order to maintain my starting position. I’m challenged to improve out on the pitch and in the gym. Every time I step out on the pitch I aim to be better than my opposite number. I will also choose a certain number of key performance indicators each game; for example tackle count, turnovers or metres gained and set a challenge to my back row to score the highest across the board so we can strive to be the best out there, which is great fun as we are very competitive.

What has playing a team sport taught you?

It’s taught me important life skills such as teamwork, communication skills, leadership skills, time management, respect and loyalty. These are skills that I use everyday at work in A&E. Sport has also taught me it’s OK to fail sometimes, I’ve learnt more from failures than from victories on the pitch. The failures have made me resilient, hardworking and forced me at times to be very honest. I’ll question myself about what I could have done differently. Could I have trained harder or trained smarter? Self awareness through sport has allowed me to develop as a better player and doctor.

For anyone thinking about taking up a sport, what benefits can they expect? Apart from the obvious

Exercising is a great stress buster, it improves sleep, it helps you grow in confidence and it improves mental well being. Team sports are great to way to meet new people and socialise. I’ve made some fantastic lifelong friends through sport.

If you’re serious about sport does your whole diet need to change?

I think the term diet refers to a short-term fix, this is about changing habits long-term. I keep my food  habits as healthy as I can, choosing fresh and low fat options. I find being organised is huge part of it. Preparation is key, homemade meals allow me to ensure I eat fresh, healthy options that can fuel my training. I am a big fan of cake so the occasional treat does sneak it’s way in there, it’s about balance.

So is it possible to be into fitness and still have a life, go out and enjoy a few drinks?

Of course! It’s about striking the right balance. You need to make sure your few drinks don’t prevent you from achieving your fitness goals but also that if you want to drink and socialise you can.

What is the easiest way to introduce fitness into you life?

It’s about making little changes, like parking further away from your destination so you have to walk further or meeting friends for a walk instead of coffee. It’s about taking away the perceived effort of exercise and making it part of your normal routine.

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