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'I'm so glad I took that opportunity... I really haven't looked back'

Megan Burns and the Ireland Women’s 7s return to World Series action in Dubai this weekend.

Ireland 7s international Megan Burns.
Ireland 7s international Megan Burns.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

BACK IN 2013 when Tullamore RFC re-established a women’s section, Megan Burns went along to the club’s Spollanstown grounds to give rugby a go with the U15s.

She smiles now when recounting how she has had “such a quick turnaround” from there to being part of the senior Ireland Women’s 7s team.

21-year-old Burns landed into Dubai last night to join her team-mates ahead of the first leg of the World 7s Series, which is back this weekend for the first time in nearly two years.

There will be two legs of action in Dubai to get things going again and for Burns, who made her senior Ireland 7s debut in 2018, it’s all a far cry from the early days when the Leinster U18s called her to come for a trial.

“I was still only U16 at the time, so I had to get my parents’ consent,” she recalls. “I thought I might be too young or too small but I’m so glad I took that opportunity. From there, I really haven’t looked back.”

Burns’ dad, John, has been a very influential figure in Tullamore rugby so it was no major surprise she got the nod from him and her mum, Beth, before going on to play for Leinster and Ireland underage teams in 7s and 15s.

Burns is currently in her final year of a Physiotherapy degree in UCD and says it can be a challenge to juggle that study with her 7s contract but she also sees the balance as important.

“College can be an outlet from rugby and vice versa,” she explains.

While the men’s 7s team had the Olympics to keep them occupied during the pandemic times, the women’s side have had to be more patient in the background after failing to qualify for Tokyo.

They have trained hard and played in a handful of tournaments here and there, but this weekend’s return to competitive action on the Series – which is made up of six legs on the women’s circuit between now and next May – is very welcome.

megan-burns Burns playing for Sacred Heart Tullamore at the GX7s back in 2016. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Qualifying for the 2022 Rugby World Cup 7s is the main goal for both Irish teams now but strong performances on the Series will help them towards that target when their regional European competitions come around next year.

Burns and co. have a new head coach this season in Aiden McNulty, who has joined from Ulster after two years as an elite performance development officer for the province. 

“He brings new insight, he has so much energy, and he really believes in us as individual players and our strengths,” says Burns of the new boss.

“We weren’t always focusing on our own individual strengths and what we can bring to the team. Bringing Aiden in just gave us a new insight into ‘Actually, if we perform well as a team, we can also bring out our own individual strengths.’

“When we see those coming out, we can get those wins. We have gelled well as a team in pre-season and now it’s about believing that we are capable.”

Ireland 15s head coach Greg McWilliams will also be in Dubai from next week, with his IRFU role also involving work with the 7s programme.

The IRFU’s policy of contracting players for 7s but sometimes moving them into the 15s game and back across has proven controversial but Burns says that the addition of Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, and Beibhinn Parsons last week was a big boost.

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“It was great having the 15s girls back, they brought experience and knowledge from the 15s games so I think it will benefit us as a squad,” says Burns, who has played a couple of games for Blackrock RFC as a dual-status player in recent times.

megan-burns-scores-a-try Burns scores for Ireland against GB in a tournament hosted by the IRFU in June. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Burns herself has no immediate aims to shift across into the 15s game given that there is so much ahead for the 7s squad.

“For me, my main focus at the minute is the 7s with the World Series coming up and the World Cup,” she says. “My main focus is 7s.”

Beyond next year, the women’s team will also be targeting the 2024 Olympics in Paris after missing out on Tokyo this year.

“No matter how far ahead it is, I think you always need to set those goals and ambitions,” says Burns. “Yeah, I do think of it and dream of it.

“It will come someday but right now we’re focusing on the next thing.”

TritonLake, title sponsors of the Ireland Men’s and Women’s 7s teams since 2021, have launched a new podcast called TritonLake Perform, exploring the intersection of sport and business. TritonLake look forward to an exciting World Rugby Sevens Series season for both teams.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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