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7s, 15s and Chemical Engineering - Enniskillen's Boles balancing the books

The 20-year-old back row made her debut in the Six Nations two weekends ago.

CLAIRE BOLES IS on a 7s development contract with the IRFU, is currently part of the Ireland Women’s 15s squad for the Six Nations, and is in her third year of a degree in Chemical Engineering in UCD.

Things are busy for the 20-year-old, who made her 15s debut for Ireland against Scotland two weekends ago, as she goes about “balancing life with a bit of everything.”

Sporty from the start, Boles has always been performing a balancing act, playing netball, hockey and soccer as she grew up before rugby grabbed her attention when they played a bit of tag in her school, Enniskillen Colligate Grammar.

Claire Boles Boles is hoping for her second cap this weekend against Italy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

From there, one of the coaches from Enniskillen RFC visited the school and convinced Boles to join the local club’s U16s team. Initially playing in the back row alongside her twin sister, Katie, she hasn’t looked back since.

Claire played for the Ireland U18 Girls 7s team in 2016, advancing on to make her senior debut a year later in a tournament in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

The IRFU helped place Boles and her fellow 7s internationals Katie Heffernan and Stacey Flood at Bond Unversity on Australia’s Gold Coast for several months in 2017, where they played in the Women’s Uni Sevens Series alongside the likes of Charlotte Caslick.

“It was a very good experience,” says Boles, who now plays club rugby with Railway Union. “The different Australian players were spread out in the different universities, so we got really good experience. It was high-quality rugby.

“[Australian players] would be coming more from touch rugby. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, so they all know different styles.”

Boles moved was brought onto a 7s development contract this season but, as the IRFU have pointed out several times, the women’s rugby programme involves both 7s and 15s, meaning the flanker has also been involved around this Six Nations campaign.

“The 15s have camps at the weekends and then I’ll be doing 7s during the week,” says Boles, who scored the Women’s AIL try of the month in December. “It’s just a bit of load management, how much you do.

“They’re totally different games, you just can’t flick a switch. But a lot of the basic skills, in defence and attack, are transferrable.

“7s is more high-speed fitness and 15s is a lot of endurance. You’re running for a long period of time. It’s still good to have your baseline fitness there.”

Claire Boles Boles was first capped in 7s. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Boles’ 15s debut arrived off the bench against Scotland two weekends ago and she “really enjoyed it” as Adam Griggs’ side secured a win that helped them bounce back from their opening-round defeat to England.

They now hope to carry that momentum into Saturday’s clash with Italy in Parma.

“It was definitely an important game for us,” says Boles of beating Scotland. “It was kind of like win or nothing, if you know what I mean?

“We had to bounce back, but it was a tough one to come back from [the England defeat]. The girls dug deep, definitely, and put in a good performance against Scotland.

“In the camp, there’s good vibes and we can’t wait to play Italy.”

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Murray Kinsella

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