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'She was scoring 100-metre tries' - Ireland lament loss of teen sensation for remainder of Six Nations

Adam Griggs says he wasn’t surprised to see Beibhinn Parsons make a huge impact in their opening games.

Beibhinn Parsons in action against Wales.
Beibhinn Parsons in action against Wales.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Adam Griggs says there were faint hopes that 18-year-old sensation Beibhinn Parsons might stay with the squad for their remaining Six Nations fixtures.

The Connacht and Ballinasloe star made a huge impact for her country in their opening victories over Scotland and Wales, scoring incredible tries in both games at Donnybrook.

But Parsons has opted to step back from the fold for the rest of the campaign to focus on her studies for the Leaving Cert. She will be a major loss to Ireland who are preparing to face defending Six Nations champions England on Sunday, with Aoife Doyle coming in as her replacement.

“We sat down with Beibhinn in December, with her parents as well, and mapped out a plan for her,” said Griggs.

It’s not enough that she’s just doing her Leaving Cert, she wants to go into medicine. We always knew that was going to be something. If she wants the marks to get into medicine, she really needs to focus on it.

“We looked at it. Even through the month of January, we managed her. She wasn’t in every day of each camp. We made sure she had time to study. We’ve always been aware of it and I think it’s probably the best thing for her.

“She’s had two great weeks and it’s probably a great thing to walk away on a high for the rest of this [Six Nations] now. Also really make sure she can do well in that area of her life.”

Griggs supports Parsons’ decision to prioritise her education ahead of her international rugby commitments, but he admits that he briefly hoped she might reconsider her Leaving Cert plan.

“We revisited it after Wales and just said ‘how’s that plan looking!?’, but Beibhinn being Beibhinn was like ‘yeah good, I’ll see you in the summer!’

That was that. It’s credit to her, how focused she is. She really knows what she wants to do and what she wants to get out of being in sport as well as her college and studies. It’s a credit to her.”

Parsons’ game is characterised by her blistering speed. Her try against Wales was a brilliant demonstration of that, with the youngster gathering possession from a Welsh box-kick before slinking her way through the cover and darting over the try-line.

The previous week, she scored a length-of-the-pitch try against Scotland after stealing the ball with an interception deep inside Ireland’s territory.

Her headline performances have generated plenty of discussion about her potential in an Irish jersey, but Griggs was not surprised to see her perform on the biggest stage.

I can’t say I was,” he says. “I’ve been with Beibhinn for the last couple of years. The U18 7s as well, where I coached her and Dorothy [Wall]. She was scoring 100-metre tries then!

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“The one thing that has really impressed with her is that she was able to step up and do it at senior level.

“It’s a lot easier in the underage to stand out, but she has come into camp and it’s always a test to see how she’d go against fully grown women. Within the last year, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it on the big stage, but we’ve seen it that behind closed doors a fair few times. Enough to know that she’s the real deal and she’s good enough to be there.”

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