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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 21 October 2020
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'This is a different ball game': Ex-Meath captain making her presence felt on international rugby stage

Leinster 20-year-old Judy Bobbett made her Six Nations debut in the Ireland second row on Sunday.

IT WAS FITTING that Ireland rising star Judy Bobbett made her Six Nations debut against Wales, considering she won her first international cap against them in November.

judy-bobbett Judy Bobbett made her Ireland debut against Wales in November. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Meath native put in a massive shift in the second row — making 18 carries and accounting for 14 successful tackles as she made her presence felt in the pack — in Ireland’s 31-12 bonus-point win over their Celtic cousins.

Further immense work-rate shown in the awful weather conditions in Donnybrook, after the 20-year-old lock was just as industrious in the sides’ November Test meeting.

“Familiar kind of setting, but every game is different,” Bobbett, who only recently turned 20, said afterwards. “Every venue makes a difference and the Six Nations is such a big step from the Novembers… the crowd and the PR around it.

My phone was buzzing all week, definitely 10 times more than it was in November!

That buzzing surely continued through the 80 minutes or so the former Meath goalkeeper, captain and All-Ireland minor winner was tearing things up at Energia Park.

Likely, one of the first things she did afterwards was check a certain result on her phone. 

Her meteoric rise on the international rugby stage has forced Bobbett to leave her beloved Gaelic football behind, and it’s something she misses at times.

“The Meath girls were playing today and usually I’d go to their games on a Sunday, but they’ve just been supporting me since then,” she noted.

This is a different ball game, a different crowd; they nearly look up to me now. I still enjoy going to their games, and sometimes miss it.

While the Royals fell to a seven-point defeat to Monaghan, the Ashbourne native was delighted to put down a winning Six Nations debut after missing out on Adam Griggs’ side’s opening victory over Scotland. 

Two wins from two, and Bobbett was pleased to make a difference this week as the scrum appeared much stronger.

the-ireland-team-during-the-national-anthems Bobbett (second from left) during the anthems. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“This week we did look at the Welsh pack and obviously, I bring a bit more weight, a bit more physicality into the pack,” she nodded.

“That was kind of our main focus today: scrummaging. We worked very hard this week on it. Thankfully, in terms of keeping the pressure off it, it worked.

“Defence is something we’ve been working on since early November. Kieran [Hallett, defence coach] has drilled in some techniques. We’re dogged and we want to take no prisoners when it comes to defence.”

As the wind roared, the rain and hail battered down and Storm Ciara caused havoc in the second half, Bobbett really came to the fore in the battle of attrition. Her Six Nations debut is a match she won’t forget for a while anyway.

“I probably couldn’t see ahead of me for a while! My head was down. Luckily when it was at its worst, it was nearly scrum time so I could keep going.

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“The girls, we got into our phase play. We know how to play the ball when it gets like that and we come together as forwards. Definitely, that patch of 10 minutes we had to come together and work as a unit.”

She added, on the emotion shown after Ireland were rewarded a last-gasp penalty try for their trojan efforts: “It was the last minute of the game and after all the work in their half, in the second half, we needed to come away with something.

“It was definitely amazing to get there in the end.”

With all-conquering England lurking in the water, Bobbett has no fear. The same as every youthful member of the squad, with no shortage of new faces on show this year.

She names herself, Dorothy Wall, Beibhinn Parsons, Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony and Enya Breen as some members of that younger wave, but is keen to thank the more established players for their ever-present influence.

a-view-of-the-ireland-and-wales-teams-in-a-huddle-during-the-tough-weather-conditions The teams huddle as Storm Ciara takes over. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re all kind of under 21, but we wouldn’t be learning a lot if it wasn’t for the senior players showing us the way,” the Blackrock club woman, who started out at Ashbourne RFC, assured.

Aoife McDermott, Nic Fryday, Ciara Cooney, all the second rows have shown me my trade and I can only thank them. It’s not easy for them if they’re competing against me. They’re doing a phenomenal job.

But after a dominant performance against Wales, Bobbett will be hoping to get another start against England, and lay down a marker against their formidable pack.

“Look, we go back into a training camp next week. The jersey is up again for grabs.

“Whoever performs again gets a jersey. No one in this team thinks they own a jersey; 1-15 and so on. We’ve a big plan for a reason. Different players and different dynamics work.”

“I haven’t played them yet,” she concludes on the Red Roses, “so on a personal note, if I’m lucky I’m going to go in how I went in with this game, any other game, and prepare myself.

I can’t control the environment so as long as I prepare myself and the girls do that, I don’t think it’s going to be too daunting.

All in her stride.

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Emma Duffy

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