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Dublin: 4°C Friday 26 February 2021
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Djougang poised to make another big impact for Ireland

The Rush woman was grateful to the Donnybrook crowd that kept her going when her ‘lungs were bursting, body is screaming.’

Linda Djougang moves in to tackle Sarah Law.
Linda Djougang moves in to tackle Sarah Law.
Image: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

LINDA DJOUGANG WOULD have been forgiven for thinking that she had played her part in full when she was called ashore after a draining 54-minute shift against Scotland last Sunday.

The Leinster tighthead made herself a stand-out during Ireland’s first-half exploits, adding a pacy and powerful carrier in Kieran Hallett’s attack, with 11 carries for 74 valuable metres.

And yet there was more to come from the Rush-raised woman. Indeed, her last-gasp intervention was effectively the match-winner for Ireland as she clamped on to force a turnover penalty as Scotland bore down on the Irish line again.

“We had just lost one player,” recounted Djougang post-match, “they got a penalty. We were under pressure. I realised: you know what, that was our moment. We had to get the ball, take it back.”

Four years after first taking up rugby, that was Djougang’s finest moment to date in the game. An international show-stopper in the final minute on the day she was making just  her second Test start.

“I didn’t really know until I heard the screaming,” adds the student nurse.

“When I saw (the referee’s) hand pointing towards us, I was so happy. The game was finished and I was so happy. For me to be able to do that, to make that impact, I was really happy.”

Elation, relief and sheer delight was etched all over Djougang and her team-mates’ faces as the curtain fell on seriously hard-fought win that had began with such audacious attacking flourishes from the hosts. It was a far cry from the headspace she took up when taking up a seat on the bench. There is no room to relax or take the game face off while the contest continues.

“When you come out, you never just settle. You know something, anything could happen. It’s rugby. You always have to be ready to go.

“We got the yellow card, so they needed me, my team needed me. I was ready for that. And we were on our 22, so mentally you have to be switched on.”

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Scrummaging will continue to be a work in progress for the Dubliner and Scotland’s stubborn refusal to be counted out of last weekend’s clash was rooted in their set-piece advantage. But Djougang’s displays in the loose and around the ruck have been difficult to fault.

“Linda’s one of these props, she’s got a bit of everything,” says head coach Adam Griggs.

linda-djougang Djougang in training last week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“You certainly need that in the style we want to play. I thought she was really good. What she gives you around the field – you saw her in the loose – we want to play that style, we want to have her on the ball and running hard.

“Again her defence, it’s not often she’ll miss a tackle. I’m delighted for her to come through with one of her first starts and actually lay the platform for us to get going.”

With Wales visiting Donnybrook tomorrow (kick-off 1pm, RTE), Djougang will be intent on laying the groundwork for Ireland again, with no little help from those bellowing support from the stands.

For a side on their way to racking up 245 tackles against an endless Scottish onslaught, every voice was vital.

“It is amazing to have the home advantage, especially in those last minutes when you are in trouble.

They cheer you on, give you that energy when your lungs are bursting, your body is screaming. You just have that extra adrenaline to go on.

“It is unreal the energy you get from the crowd. You can’t describe it. You have to be there to experience it. And we have it three times this year. We have to win those, starting with Wales. That is all we are focused on.”

“Wales is a really challenging team — it’s always important for us to know what we can do and stick to our game plan, go out there and show what we can do.

“It is going to be a great fight. I’m really looking forward to it.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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