Fryday braces for contact against Wales. Robbie Stephenson/INPHO
hungry for work

'If I have to hit nearly every ruck, I'll happily do it' - Fryday expecting busy afternoon against France

The Ireland lock has been working on making a greater impact around the pitch.

RUGBY DIDN’T FIND Nichola Fryday easily. During her time as a student in Kilkenny College, hockey was the big draw.

Rugby is more prominent at the school now, but at that stage it was just sprinkled into Fryday’s schedule every second Tuesday in Transition Year. While Fryday enjoyed her early exposure to the sport, she didn’t she her association with it going beyond those fortnightly outings.

Life moved on. A few years later, the idea of playing rugby crept up again at home in Tullamore. This time, she jumped at it.

“I think it was my second year in college, I was at home for the summer. I was working but I didn’t really have any sport outlet after college finished, so it was my mum actually that suggested maybe I could look into going into the local club because my uncle would have been heavily involved within the club, and they knew there was a women’s team that was going quite well at the time.

They had only been established a year or two but they were progressing up through the Leinster ranks. So I went in and instantly loved it. And it was definitely the girls there that made me love it as well, because they are some of my closest friends now, because they were the ones that kind of drew me into the game.”

Fryday impressed at Tullamore RFC and was an Ireland international by 2016, becoming the club’s first senior women’s international. 

She now has 16 Ireland caps to her name, lining out in the second row alongside Aoife McDermott in last weekend’s 45-0 win over Wales.

The win sets Ireland up nicely for a shot at the upset they openly targeted coming into this Six Nations, with France in town this Saturday. The winner will play England to determine the winner of the 2021 championship.

“I think this is going to be a great opportunity for both sides,” Fryday says.

“If we can get our defence right and put pressure on them then that’s a good opportunity for us. But on the same side, on the attack, I think if we can get our phases together and use our speedy backs, we have a really good opportunity to be scoring tries as well.

“I think it’s going to be a great game and we are really, really excited for it.”

Fryday anticipates a busy afternoon, with both sides determined to play fast, attacking rugby.

The last six months I suppose I’ve put a lot of focus on my impact across the pitch. It’s something that as a second row, you have to be making those big hits and clearing those rucks with intent.

“I think the main point (for me against France) will be ball security. So if it means I have to hit nearly every ruck, I’ll happily do it, if it means we are getting the ball to our strong players and getting gainline.

“But I suppose for a second row, we want to be clearing the rucks but we want to be carrying and getting the soft shoulders and using our hands as well. So our roles don’t really change, I don’t think. I still think we can play to our strengths and play the way we have been training, it’s just about ball security.”

While Ireland were rarely tested defensively by a poor Wales team, France will provide a clearer idea of where this Ireland team are following the disruption of the last year.

nichola-fryday Fryday during Ireland training earlier this week. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The visitors are also likely to test Ireland’s lineout given how they struggled in that department last year. And while last weekend’s display was more encouraging when it came to the set-piece, the squad know France will ask much more challenging questions.

From Ireland’s point a view, a strong set-piece offers a perfect platform to unleash the frightening pace on hand in the backline.

“We just kind of went back to our basics,” Fryday explains.

“We’ve focused on our execution, lifts and throws, and our speed across the ground. I think if we can nail all those kind of basic aspects of the lineout, then we should be able to find the space where we’ll get to win the ball cleanly.

“It’s been a real focus for us because we wanted to be able to provide that platform for our backs, so it’s something that we’ve been working really hard on and I think the work has paid off, but we still have improvements that we can make and we can still push on.

“It’s a great opportunity to build your attack. If we’re winning that ball cleanly, then it opens up different areas we can exploit across the pitch so I think if we can get it consistently performing over the next few matches, then it is definitely a weapon that we can use.” 

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