Highlights: July 2023
A Brave Effort
After a gruelling tournament in so many ways, the Irish Rugby U20s made their way home and were proclaimed as heroes having made their way to the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship. After a series of resilient displays, the team finally came undone but by a strong French outfit. Despite Ireland being firmly in the contest at half-time, the French streaked away to claim a 50-14 win over an emotionally drained squad to claim their third successive U20 Championship title.
Following the passing of Greig Oliver (father of Jack) and the deaths of Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall on the Greek island of Ios, the side showed remarkable mental stength to underline their potential as a group as many of them take their first steps into professional rugby ranks over the coming weeks and months.
Champions of Europe
Having won the first leg of the Rugby Europe series in the Algarve and followed it up by securing Olympic qualification at the European Games in Krakow, the Irish Rugby 7s were officially declared European Champions after the final leg in Hamburg.
Thank you, Nichola
Nichola Fryday has announced her retirement from international rugby, aged 28. The Offaly woman was named Irish captain in 2022, and led a group she described as the ‘true definition of grit and heart’ through some difficult campaigns, earning widespread praise for the way in which she fronted up to the considerable challenge both on and off the field. Fryday played for Ireland on 34 occasions, making her debut in 2016. While she will continue to play rugby in England’s Premier 15s with Exeter, she will now look to further develop her career away from the game.
Rugby Players Ireland Golf Classic
The recently redeveloped Druids Glen course played host to a memorable Golf Classic organised by Rugby Players Ireland. Bringing together players past and present, along with Rugby Players Ireland’s sponsors and guests, the morning was followed by a lunch and an insightful discussion on Ireland’s World Cup prospects at both U20 and senior level with Alan Quinlan and Dan Leavy.
The Golf Classic is an important highlight of the players’ association’s calendar. While it goes some way to ensuring that the organisation can continue to support its members, it also gives attending players an opportunity to mingle with many of those who underpin their game. With the rain holding off and the sun drawing out all the colour on the course, there was a lively ambiance throughout the day before the time came to announce the winners on the day…
1st Place: Darragh Fanning & Druids Glen
2nd Place: Leinster Rugby
3rd Place: Jordi Murphy & AIB
Longest Drive: Niall Treston
Closest to the Pin: Gary Nolan (Leinster Rugby)
Tackle Your Feelings
As the Rugby World Cup training squad took a break from their preparations, Tadhg Furlong linked up with Tackle Your Feelings to raise awareness of the TYF Schools initiative. Returning back to his old stomping ground at Good Counsel in New Ross, Furlong reflected on his time as a student and the supportive role played by his teachers. Check out his video below!
Furlong’s fellow TYF ambassadors Andrew Porter and James Lowe also called by Zurich’s new offices in Blackrock to meet with staff and discuss the management of their mental wellbeing while in camp. Meanwhile, Gráinne Finnegan called out to the IRFU High Performance Centre for a TYF workshop with members of the Irish Women’s XVs.
Celebrating the Player Voice
As Katie McCabe and the Ireland WNT stepped up their preparations for the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup against their Australian hosts in Sydney, members of both Rugby Players Ireland and the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) came together to wish the team well.
Rugby players Garry Ringrose, Lucy Mulhall, Eimear Considine, Jenny Murphy and Rugby Players Ireland Chairperson Peter O’Mahony were joined by Vicki Wall (Meath Football), Ashling Thompson (Cork Camogie), Joe Canning (former Galway Hurler) and Aidan O’Shea (Mayo Football) in sending their best wishes while also thanking the squad for the way in which they have paved a path for women’s sport in Ireland.
🙌🏻 Although it may have been a lonely journey at times, it’s been a journey that has changed Irish women’s sport.
— GPA (@gaelicplayers) July 18, 2023
On the Road
Members of the Rugby Players Ireland team were on the road in July as they paid a visit to several squad groups. In addition to providing updates on off-field developments concerning their game, players also participated in the Protect Integrity Online project. Led by EU Athletes and co-funded by the European Union, the project focuses on the research, development and implementation ofthe best ways to deliver integrity education, particularly related to fighting match-fixing and corruption in sport.
Former Munster Rugby academy player John Poland started at scrum-half as the New England Free Jacks claimed the MLR title. Poland was also named in the 2nd XV All-Star Team of the season, with Dylan Fawsitt in the 1st XV MLR Team of the Season.
Ben Healy was handed his first start for Scotland in the Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy.
Eoin O’Connor secured a move to the Exeter Chiefs. Newly-capped Emma Swords makes her way to Ealing Trailfinders ahead of the new season where she will be joined by Amanda McQuade who was called into the Irish set-up for the Six Nations but was precluded from involvement through injury.
Rugby Players Ireland member Jean Kleyn made his debut for his native South Africa, as the Springboks overcame Australia in the Rugby Championship. He was joined off the bench by his provincial teammate RG Snyman. Under World Rugby Regulation 8 which was revised in 2022, Kleyn – who lined out for Ireland in 2019 – could play for the country of his birth once a period of at least 36 months has elapsed since last selection for an adopted country.
In France, Peter Lydon was named in the PRO D2 Team of the Season.
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