Criminology student Higgins solving the challenges of playing 13

The 22-year-old impressed for Ireland against Italy last weekend.

Higgins made her 15s debut earlier this year.
Higgins made her 15s debut earlier this year.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

EVE HIGGINS HAS her hands full with rugby matters in Italy at the moment as Ireland prepare for Saturday’s huge World Cup qualification clash with Scotland, but she’s still finding time to get reading done for her degree in criminology back at UCD.

The 22-year-old centre struggles to explain when the interest began but it goes back as far as she can remember. Higgins says the main reason she did an undergraduate degree in college was to get through to the post-grad course in criminology.

Crime fiction, TV, and movies have always been her thing. Asked for recommendations, Higgins says Silence of the Lambs is her favourite movie, while she highlights Patricia Cornwell’s series of books starring the character Kay Scarpetta as good reading.

“It’s just an interest I’ve always had,” says the Railway Union player. “I’ve just been flat out doing my readings when I’ve had time off over here, like during the recovery day yesterday, I just focused on what I could catch up on for not being at home. I’m enjoying it.”

Higgins had plenty of fun out on the rugby pitch last weekend too as head coach Adam Griggs brought her back into the team at outside centre, where she impressed during this year’s Six Nations.

Higgins has shone for the Ireland 7s team in recent years, while she has played at scrum-half and out-half in 15s before, but she looks comfortable with the number 13 on her back these days. Her Test debut came earlier this year in the Six Nations.

“At 13, defence is a huge thing,” says Higgins. “You can do as much in training but until you’re in a game you can’t really recreate game-like scenarios. To be honest, when the Six Nations finished, it was unfortunate it was only three games, I just wanted it to keep going, just to get into the swing of things.

eve-higgins-is-tackled-by-maria-magatti Higgins carries against Italy last weekend. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

“Defensively, that was the huge difference, your whole attitude towards defence is different, you’re not trying to guide them out, you’re going to them, that was the biggest thing. It took me a while to get in to but I’m trying to improve it every game.”

As she looks to make good defensive reads, Higgins needs to have a solid understanding with her wings and is feeling at ease in that regard.

“Every winger, every person, defends differently, so getting to know who’s outside you… I have a good relationship obviously with Leigh [Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe] from playing with her the last few years with 7s, and Bei [Beibhinn Parsons] as well, I’ve known her for a good few years.

“Thankfully I have those relationships with them, so it’s just about playing week in, week out with them, training with them, getting that good relationship which was already there, pretty much.”

Higgins impressed around the breakdown last weekend too – her 7s background is useful in that area – while her intuitive attacking skills have long been a strength.

There was joy for Ireland in the try Murphy Crowe finished off during the win over Italy, with Parsons initially surging down the left in thrilling fashion before sharp handling moved the ball wide right for the try.

“We were unfortunate not to execute opportunities we had out wide before in the game, so to execute that, see the space on the outside, put Leigh in for a try, it was very rewarding,” says Higgins.

“It feels good for a backline to put it through their hands and go from one side of the pitch to the other and score.”

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irelands-eve-higgins-runs-in-to-score-a-try Higgins has previously starred for the Ireland 7s. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

More of the same against Scotland in the final round of the World Cup Qualifier tournament on Saturday would be very welcome for Ireland.

There are a range of permutations as Italy and Spain meet in the other final-round clash, but Ireland know a big win would leave them in a fine position to either win the competition or secure the second-place finish that would give them one final shot at qualification.

“We were still frustrated with ourselves in that Italy game because we left a few tries out there,” said Higgins.

“We’re just not pulling the trigger and we know how devastating our backline can be, through the Six Nations and stuff like that, from set-piece and in open play.

“We just want to execute more of our chances to put scores on the board. We still want to right some wrongs even from the Italy game.”

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