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Gruelling conditions in Japan, exciting times for Ireland and club future TBC

‘It’s a massive few weeks for Irish women’s rugby, first-ever summer tour and to be part of that is pretty special.’

Enya Breen in training in Dublin last week.
Enya Breen in training in Dublin last week.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ENYA BREEN JUMPS on a video call from Japan, media duties to be fulfilled after an “exceptionally hard day” of training.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a training session like it,” the Cork centre admits at one point. “The conditions are something I’ve never experienced before.

“Another tough day at the office, a big session, full of contact. I think it felt something like 42 degrees today with the humidity up at around 80%. Getting used to that has been tough, but it’s been hugely exciting and great to finally be here, settled in and preparing for the weekend.”

It was a case of beating the jet lag over the first few days, having landed on Friday, and now it’s down to business ahead of Saturday’s first Test against the hosts [KO 11am Irish time, live on TG4].

With no shortage of new faces in camp, there’s a big focus on gelling the squad and Breen has a special word for the four recent Sixth Year students among the uncapped contingent. “You wouldn’t think they’ve just finished their Leaving Cert, to be honest,” the 23-year-old beams.

“Everybody’s fitted in pretty seamlessly, they’ve fitted in pretty much right around the foundations that we started to develop during the Six Nations, and they fully bought into what we’re trying to do here.

“I don’t think anybody’s standing out as not hitting the mark, everyone’s here because they deserve to be. It’s great to see some new, young, fresh faces and to see what the pathways are bringing through at the moment. It’ll be exciting to see what they do at the weekend.”

There’s a palpable sense of excitement around Irish women’s rugby at the minute both on and off the field, with a string of positive developments announced in recent weeks: the first professional contracts for women’s 15s players, the appointment of Gillian McDarby as Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways, and of course, this historic tour.

It is really exciting, and we’d have to admit that as well,” Breen nods. “Things are happening that I don’t think anybody precedented in the last few years, and massive changes are being made. It’s been a bit of a new chapter. The foundations were set during the Six Nations, and we’re just trying to build on that from now forward really.”

“It’s great news, obviously,” she adds on the contract situation. “But to be honest, we haven’t thought about it too much. We were told last week or whatever, that it would be something we’d speak about after tour. So we’re just focusing on the job at hand at the moment.”

The same rings true from a personal standpoint. Most recently at Railway Union, a potential move to English Premier 15s side Exeter Chiefs has been reported by The Irish Independent

Breen’s club was listed as TBC on the IRFU squad announcement for this series, and the Skibbereen centre kept it that way on today’s call.

“I’m still just figuring out my options at the moment. I haven’t really made any full decisions yet, but once I do, I’m sure the word will be out as soon as that decision is made,” she grinned, her giddiness evident at times.

enya-breen-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Breen celebrates after her Six Nations heroics. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

None more so than when she was asked about ending the long wait to get back on the pitch after her euphoric ending to the Six Nations. Breen was the hero against Scotland, her last-gasp try and nerveless conversion sealing a dramatic 15-14 win.

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“I’m buzzing to get going now, to be honest. It’s been a long few months’ break. I’m feeling really good. It’s a massive few weeks for Irish women’s rugby, first-ever summer tour and to be part of that is pretty special. Buzzing to get going and show what this young new group can do.”

As the call wound down, Breen was asked about the recent IRFU announcement that transgender women over the age of 12 will not be permitted to participate in contact female rugby.

Following the lead of captain Nichola Fryday in last week’s pre-departure press conference, she said:

“To be honest, I’m just focusing on the game on Saturday at the moment, and that’s all I’m here to talk about. So I won’t be commenting on that.”

Asked if there could be scope for further discussion after the tour, Breen added:

“Perhaps, but at the moment, I’m not going to talk about a few weeks’ time. All I’m focusing on at the moment is the game at the weekend.”

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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