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'My dad gave me a good piece of advice at Christmas. He said, 'Just play like a kid.''

Beibhinn Parsons has been named Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Women’s Player of The Year.

Beibhinn Parsons with her award.
Beibhinn Parsons with her award.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THERE IS A very real joy in watching Beibhinn Parsons play rugby.

The Ballinasloe woman is a pure rugby player and a pure athlete. Parsons’ smooth running style helped her towards three tries in the 2020 Six Nations as she continued her rise in Test rugby.

But the 19-year-old is not just about outright speed. She has diligently-honed instincts for how best to employ it, where the space is, and how to be in the right place at the right time. Defensively, Parsons has worked hard to gain an appreciation of space too, with her timing now often allowing her to make impactful tackles.

All of these things helped the Ireland wing to enjoy an excellent 2019/20 season, one that saw her named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Women’s Player of The Year last night.

Of course, she has had to learn fast in international rugby and still only has eight caps for Ireland, but Parsons looks very much at home already. Even as she continues to pick up the know-how at the highest level, the Connacht flyer has been reminded simply to be herself.

“My dad gave me a good piece of advice when I left at Christmas,” explains Parsons. “He said, ‘Just play like a kid.’

“I think I sort of lost that to a point when I was trying to be too serious or play a different game, be a different player, a playmaker, which I’m not. I’m a finisher. I’m excited to play and I enjoy it.

“So to make sure I express myself on the pitch is something that I’m definitely working on, I don’t want to be boxed into anything. Play like a kid.”

Not that Parsons will rest on her laurels.

There are lots of ways in which she can become an even more dangerous player, including through her attacking kicking game – such a key facet of rugby these days.

“I’ve been working on adding more of a kicking game, so I’m working on grubbers and chipping and that type of stuff. The girls in camp are excellent,” says Parsons.

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beibhinn-parsons-makes-a-break Parsons showed her talent in the 2020 Six Nations. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Ellen Murphy is an expert on kicking so I’m always picking her brains, and the same with Kathryn Dane, just learning off the girls and trying to add more tools to my toolbox really.”

It has been a whirlwind last year for Parsons with a postponed Six Nations, a rejigged Leaving Cert, the belated resumption of the Six Nations, the France game being cancelled, the start of her life as a student at UCD – albeit remotely – and the recently postponed Six Nations.

Parsons looks back on it with “a lot of fondness” and gratitude for the support she got from family, friends, and team-mates. The rugby calendar in 2021 remains uncertain but the hope is that it includes the rescheduled Six Nations, a World Cup qualifying competition, and the World Cup itself in New Zealand.

“Since I joined the squad our focus has been to get to the World Cup. It’s the pinnacle of rugby, it’s what you train for, it’s what you do everything for,” says Parsons.

“I’m scheduling my life nearly to peak during those World Cup qualifiers to ensure that we all get qualified and that’s what everyone’s doing.

“We all have to rejig our schedules. In my case, I had to make sure I got my Leaving Cert done right the first time so I wouldn’t have to repeat and miss anything the second time around. It means everything. It’s always what we were working towards.”

That’s the ultimate goal for Parsons and Ireland, although it was nice to have her own good performances recognised with the RWI Women’s Player of the Year award.

“I was completely shocked and also delighted when I found out the news,” said Parsons.

“To follow on from my team-mates like Claire Molloy, Sene Naoupu, Ciara Griffin, they’re players of such high calibre so to be even considered for an award is beyond all my expectations. It means the world, like a dream come true.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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