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'She has nerves of steel that girl, but she didn’t doubt herself for a second'

Enya Breen’s nerveless kick secured a dramatic 15-14 triumph over Scotland.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ENYA BREEN SAID her nerveless kick to secure the Ireland women’s rugby team a dramatic 15-14 triumph over Scotland in their closing game of the Six Nations Championship at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night was about ‘staying in the moment’.

Making her second consecutive start at inside centre – after appearing off the bench in the opening three rounds – Breen bookended a lengthy spell of attacking pressure from Ireland during the closing stages of the contest with a stoppage-time try.

This left them a single point in arrears, but the subsequent conversion presented the hosts with a glorious opportunity to snatch a victory from under Scotland’s noses. Hannah O’Connor’s superbly-executed opening half penalty made her a viable candidate for this bonus strike, but it was left for Breen to be the Irish match-winner.

enya-breen-celebrates-after-the-game Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It was just about trusting the process, staying in the moment. I knew the pressure was on, but I didn’t want to let that get to me. I know I had a kick from a similar position in the first half and I just pulled it right, so I just aimed it a bit more left,” Breen explained in the aftermath of Saturday’s game.

“I trusted myself, it’s all I could do really. Me and Hannah had a bit of a discussion beforehand, but I backed myself to do it and that was that, to be honest. We were pounding away at the line for the last 10 minutes or so. We had our opportunities and luckily it just popped up for me [to score a try] at the end. Linda [Djougang] gave me the ball and I just backed myself to take it.”

First introduced to the squad by Adam Griggs in November 2018 as a 19-year-old – she made her debut against France the following March while still in her teens – Breen now has 14 international caps under her belt. Injuries have stalled her progress to a certain degree, but she now feels ready to push on with the experience of the last few years behind them.

“Look, I have been lucky to have been around some great leaders over the last few years and I think I have taken a piece from every single one of them. I’ve been involved a good few seasons now, I think I’m learning more every season. Some of what might be considered the younger players have been around for the last few years.

“We are ready to step up now. Someone has to step up into those leadership roles. We have taken the onus on ourselves, there is only so much the coaching staff can do. It’s been an interesting few seasons, but I have learned loads.”

Given how her late intervention completely changed the mood within the Ireland camp in the wake of their showdown with Scotland, Ireland skipper Nichola Fryday was unsurprisingly effusive in her praise of Skibbereen’s Breen.

“She has nerves of steel that girl, but she didn’t doubt herself for a second. She said ‘Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll take that.’ That’s what you want. You want those players standing up in those moments. We were back on the half-way and I said ‘Girls, whatever happens, this is a really proud performance for us.’ Then Enya just slotted it over and that was the icing on the cake.”

Saturday marked the end of a Six Nations campaign that had as many talking points off the pitch as it did on it. One such topic that was discussed at length was the possibility of the IRFU handing out contracts to Ireland women’s 15s players.

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Fryday is hopeful that an open dialogue with the union can lead to a sea change within the game on these shores, but cautioned that copying the professional model employed by England isn’t as simple as it sounds.

“For each union, I think contracts are very different because what works for England wouldn’t necessarily work for us. I think it’s about us as players working with the IRFU to find a model that really works for us,” Fryday added.

“That we get the most out of it because for some girls it’s not going to be sustainable for them. They have established careers. I think it’s about having an honest conversation with the IRFU about what’s going to work for us and what will allow us to be able to push on and really develop as a team.”

When asked if such talks are taking place at the moment, Fryday said:

“Not currently. Our focus was just to compete in this campaign. After the Six Nations maybe we’ll get that started.”

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