James Crombie/INPHO Ireland and Munster fullback Eimear Considine.
# Aiming high
Considine: World Cup qualification crucial to help grow women's rugby
The Munster fullback is part of Adam Griggs’ Irish squad at the Rugby Europe qualifying tournament which gets underway in Parma this coming Monday.

LIKE SO MANY athletes in women’s sport, Ireland rugby international Eimear Considine is doing her best to leave a lasting legacy that can inspire future generations.

A native of Kilmihil in Co. Clare, the Munster fullback will be part of Adam Griggs’ Irish squad at the Rugby Europe qualifying tournament for next year’s World Cup finals in New Zealand – which gets underway at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma this coming Monday.

Spain are first up for the Green Army, before host nation Italy and Scotland provide the opposition in the same venue on 19 and 25 September respectively.

Having made her 15s international debut in that year’s Six Nations Championship, Considine featured on the wing for Ireland at the home-based World Cup in 2017. It proved to be a frustrating tournament for the Tom Tierney-coached side, with an eighth-place finish ensuring they were forced into a qualification process for the latest edition of the global tournament.

At a time when there is a big push to increase participation levels in women’s rugby – on top of enhancing the general awareness around the sport – Considine insists it is essential that Ireland perform on the biggest stage of all in 2022.

“It was bleak enough at the end of the last World Cup, when you knew you had to go through the whole qualifying process. It’s something we have been waiting for. Some girls have been waiting for it for the last four years. Some girls for the last 18 months. It’s about getting there and being on top of the world stage,” Considine acknowledged.

“We want to be back in that World Cup. We’re trying to push the ‘Nothing Like It’ campaign, we’ve got the Interprovincials televised. We’re trying to push the profile of women’s rugby and if the international team isn’t at the top level [it would be bad].

“We really, really need that. For girls to look up to us and to play. That is the aim, to get back on the top ladder of rugby and it starts with the very first game on Monday.”

When Considine first broke into the side four years ago, Nora Stapleton was firmly established as Ireland’s starting out-half. Since the retirement of the Donegal woman in the aftermath of the 2017 World Cup, no fewer than seven players have donned the number 10 jersey in competitive internationals.

This includes Hannah Tyrrell, who featured prominently in this spring’s Six Nations before subsequently calling time on her rugby career and joining the Dublin ladies football panel.

Stacey Flood produced a player of the match display in this pivotal position as Ireland secured third place in a revamped Championship with victory against Italy at Energia Park on 24 April, but is still very much in her infancy as a 15s international. Nevertheless, Considine has full confidence in the Railway Union playmaker and feels there are several others who are capable of filling in at out-half.

“Stacey has had a lot of experience in this year’s Six Nations campaign. A similar amount of game time to Hannah in that campaign, but she has been doing fantastic. Anyone who has stepped in there has done a really good job.

“We’ve been together for so long that a new 10 might look new on the outside, but we’ve been training week in, week out and had a lot of time together. The girls have plenty of experience. They mightn’t have a lot of experience in the big games, but with training it’s such high intensity and it’s such high quality.

“They have experience in high pressure situations. Obviously there’s experienced players that you look to, but it’s not just Junior [Ciara Griffin] our captain that you look to. It’s everyone in the squad. There’s so much experience there going into this tournament that we really are just excited to get started with the tournament on Monday.”

Despite the undoubted experience within their ranks, the presence of uncapped triumvirate Sam Monaghan, Mary Healy and Lucy Mulhall ensures there is a freshness to Griggs’ 28-strong selection for these forthcoming qualifiers.

One of four Wasps players in the set-up, Monaghan will offer competition to Aoife McDermott and Nichola Fryday at second-row. Tighthead prop Healy was previously part of an Ireland training squad in 2019, while her fellow Wicklow woman Mulhall has been Ireland Women’s 7s captain since 2015.

“It is phenomenal to still have new caps coming into the squad. Sam has had so much experience, over playing with Wasps, Mary has been in with us for quite a while and had been in the States playing rugby.

“I don’t think I need to say anything more about Lucy and the experience she has coming from 7s, especially as captain. It’s great to have such girls coming in to build on an already fantastic squad.”

Given their most recent competitive outing against Spain was as far back as May 2008 – a pool stage clash at the European Championships in the Netherlands – Considine’s main knowledge of Monday’s opponents comes from her time as a 7s international. However, with a lot of the Ireland squad having transitioned between both rugby codes themselves, she has a good idea of what to expect in the tournament opener.

“We know how good they are on the Sevens circuit. They’re really, really tough. They’re fast. They’ve got the mix of 15s and 7s, and that is a great mix. We’re not taking them lightly. Every one of the teams that are going to be in Italy are there for one reason and Spain are no different.”

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