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'There's great clarity... As a player, you’ll do what’s best for the programmes'

Ireland international Eve Higgins is a star for both the 7s and 15s squads.

Higgins on her way to scoring against France.
Higgins on her way to scoring against France.
Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

HAVING BEATEN MORE defenders than any other player so far in the Six Nations, there’s no doubt that Eve Higgins has been a key woman for Ireland.

The outside centre superbly finished Ireland’s only try in last weekend’s heavy defeat to France, while she was also heavily involved in most of their best passages in the loss to Wales in Round 1.

If Ireland are to notch their first win of the championship against Italy in Dublin this Sunday, Higgins will be an important figure again.

Thereafter, it’s unclear whether Higgins will be involved in the Six Nations. The 22-year-old is on a full-time 7s contract with the IRFU and the Ireland 7s team return to World Series action in Langford, Canada later this month.

That leg of the Series clashes directly with the Ireland 15s team’s meeting with Scotland in Round 5 of the Six Nations, meaning Higgins and several other 7s internationals are likely to be missing.

It remains to be seen if the 7s players are involved in Ireland’s visit to England the weekend before, or if they will be withdrawn from that game in order to prepare for their return to the 7s Series.

Higgins indicated that she is happy to do what’s best for the 7s and 15s programmes and while she couldn’t shed light on whether she will miss the last two rounds of the Six Nations, she said that 7s boss Aiden McNulty, 15s head coach Greg McWilliams, and IRFU performance director David Nucifora know what the plan is.

“David, Aiden and Greg have all been in talks and there is great clarity between them,” said Higgins yesterday.

eve-higgins-outruns-pam-buisa Higgins is also a key member of the 7s squad. Source: Martin Seras Lima/INPHO

“Greg made it clear at the start of the Six Nations that us 7s and 15s players, there is no distinction between it.

“To be honest, I’m just focusing on this weekend ahead and not focusing on far ahead. When that will come, that will come.

“I’m not looking ahead at the moment but obviously as a player, you’ll do what’s best for the programmes.

“We do have a World Cup that we’re trying to qualify for in 2022 with regards to 7s. And this is obviously our first World Series after Seville and Malaga [where Ireland performed strongly] so we’ll see what happens but, yeah, we’ll just do what’s best for the programmes.”

Losing players to the 7s team promises to be a big challenge for 15s boss McWilliams and his coaching staff, particularly given the possible impact on the backline, which has included several 7s internationals in this Six Nations so far.

Whatever is to come, Higgins is determined to help Ireland record their first victory this weekend as the Italians visit Musgrave Park.

The centre’s hope is that the glimpses of promise in Ireland’s new attack under McWilliams will culminate in something special on Sunday.

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“The handling errors is something that we really want to improve on this weekend,” said Higgins.

eve-higgins 22-year-old Higgins has impressed at outside centre. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

“We’ve seen both in the France game and the Wales game that when we have opportunity with ball in hand we can see how threatening our attack can be, both forwards and backs combined, so I think we can take a lot of encouragement and positives from that and just trying to get more opportunities like that this weekend.

“I suppose the positives we have as a backline is that a lot of us are very familiar with each other and can play off each other quite well.

“Even the likes of me and Stacey [Flood, another 7s international] in the centre, last weekend was only the second game we were together in a partnership in the centre but we’ve been playing together for the last five or six years so we know each other quite well.

“It’s a lot of new details that we have come up with but we do have that reassurance that we know each other quite well.”

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Murray Kinsella

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