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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 21 September, 2019
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Murphy Crowe making her mark on the world stage with Ireland 7s

The Tipperary woman has scored 12 tries in three tournaments this season.

THERE ARE MANY fine finishers in Irish rugby at present, but Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe must be considered among the very best as she scores freely on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series circuit.

Three tournaments into the campaign, the Tipperary woman is eighth in the overall charts with 12 tries for Ireland. Having flown out to Japan today for the next leg, expect to hear of more try-scoring exploits from Murphy Crowe this weekend.

Source: Irish Rugby TV/YouTube

The fastest woman in Irish rugby, the 21-year-old’s highlights reel for the season so far makes for impressive viewing.

It’s no surprise to learn that Murphy Crowe’s first sport was athletics. She competed in the 100m and long jump for Tipperary Town Athletics Club until the age of 15, when she began to tire of the individualistic nature of it.

Doubting her kicking skills, she opted against Gaelic football and instead headed to Clanwilliam RFC for her first taste of rugby. She hasn’t looked back since, but Murphy Crowe is appreciative of her athletics history.

It definitely helps. I’ll always thank my athletics coach, Breeda Christie, she is definitely the reason I’m quick.

“You learn those techniques when you’re young and it’s automatic to you then, so it’s easier to be really good with your technique. Athletics is a great start no matter what sport you end up playing.”

The 5’6″ wing’s rise in rugby was rapid, as she played for the Munster U18s in 2012, for an Ireland U19 provincial sevens squad the following year, then began to get called into training camps for the senior women’s sevens squad from September 2013.

There was a first senior Munster cap in 15s in December 2013 – a memorable experience in Thomond Park – and then her first Ireland senior sevens caps on the World Series in China in 2014.

Aimee Leigh Murphy Crowe Murphy Crowe in Munster colours in 2013. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It was different over there and I like how different it is,” says Murphy Crowe of that experience in China. “Most countries are unique, but then similar in food styles and things like that.

“When you go over to Asia it’s different. I was young and it was my first time that far away from home. It was so cool.”

Murphy Crowe has developed and improved immensely as a player since then, of course, while the Ireland women’s sevens programme is now unrecognisable from when she first got involved.

With IRFU director of women’s and sevens rugby Anthony Eddy in charge, the squad have a full-time contracted programme of around 20 players, with their base on Lansdowne Road, literally in the shadow of the Aviva Stadium.

“It’s hugely changed,” explains Murphy Crowe. “When I started off in 2014, we were just doing weekend camps. You came up on a Saturday, trained twice on Saturday, then stayed overnight and trained twice on Sunday.

“It’s much better since we centralised because you move to Dublin and you recover better because you’re not travelling to Tipp, Cork, or even further for some of the girls. Skills and everything are so much improved because we have more time with the coaches.

“Our strength and conditioning has improved massively too, we’re a fitter, faster, stronger team than we were back then because we have the resources there five days a week.

“We have a full-time nutritionist on hand all the time, just send a Whatsapp any time you’re away and he’ll be back to you straight away. All those little things are really helpful.”

Murphy Crowe is also completing a degree in strength and conditioning through Setanta College – the majority is done online, making it far more manageable – but most of her days are spent training and recovering with the sevens squad.

ALMC The Tipp woman has been prolific this season so far.

She describes a family atmosphere within the group and underlines how important that bond has been in improving Ireland as a team.

They have finished 9th, 8th and 8th in the three legs of the World Series so far this season and are determined to make the quarter-finals or better in Japan this weekend.

Thereafter, they will seek to secure World Cup qualification, whether through their final standing on the World Series or the European qualifiers this summer.

Murphy Crowe herself remains focused on growing as an individual too, and even her searing pace is an area she believes can improve. The presence of IRFU head of athletic performance and science Nick Winkleman as the sevens squad’s speed coach has been valuable in that regard.

“Nick comes into us every Thursday for around 20 minutes just before our pitch session and it’s hugely beneficial, because a key component of the game is speed, ability to change direction, ability to see and take space,” says Railway Union woman Murphy Crowe.

“It’s huge having Nick around because he’s a really good coach on the technical side of things. At the moment we’re really focusing on change of direction and evasion skills. The game involves so much of that.

“There are definitely core elements, like watching the player’s hips and trying not to get too focused on their feet. Their feet could go one way but their hips will actually show you where they will go.

“Nick focuses in on training your eyes to watch the player but not getting too focused on their feet. It’s tough to do in matches and when you’re moving at high speed!”

The one-on-one element of sevens rugby is massive and Murphy Crowe says that’s very much reflected in the amount of time Ireland spend on ‘tracking’ drills in training, working as both a defender and attacker to improve those skills.

IMG_9140 A try against Fiji.

As a wing, she is positioned out on the edge of Ireland’s defensive line, meaning the importance of making her tackles is magnified even more.

“You just try and take as much space as you can because you know that she more than likely can’t pass unless she gives an inside ball or someone loops around,” says Murphy Crowe of the keys to making those one-on-one tackles.

“So, as a winger, you want to take as much space as possible and make the tackle as far behind the gain line as possible or just a little bit in front of it. It’s your role, your job. It’s a standard that you make your tackles.

“If you have one tackle in a game, you have to make it. If you have two and miss one of them, that’s a 50% tackle rate. Our coaches strive for 80% if not higher, so that’s a standard that’s driven in our team.

“If there’s a missed tackle on the inside, more than likely a defender inside will help you on that, but if you’re burnt [on the outside] you’re burnt. If she meets the sweeper [the last defender in behind the main defensive line], she does, but if she goes all the way, you put your hand up and accept responsibility.”

With the likes of Stan McDowell and Tom Tierney assisting Eddy in coaching the women’s sevens squad, Ireland believe they have become a more tactically intelligent team.

For a player like Murphy Crowe, the instinct might always be to attempt to beat her defender, but she and the rest of this Ireland group have learned that picking the right battle is essential.

Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe scores a try The flying wing will be hoping for more tries in Japan this weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Reading the game, knowing when to slow the game down or speed it up against certain teams [is important],” says Murphy Crowe.

“Controlling the tempo can be really important. If I didn’t have support and I beat my defender, then met the sweeper and didn’t buy any time on the ground or slow my feet up for my support to get there – you have to buy a little time sometimes, but usually the girls are there and ready for an offload or to ruck.”

On other occasions, Murphy Crowe doesn’t even require that support as her pace and evasion skills take her clear.

As Ireland target a top-eight finish in Japan, that attacking ability is likely to be key once again.

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Murray Kinsella

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