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In the spotlight: Ireland captain Ciara Griffin

Ciara Griffin Ireland Women

Ciara Griffin’s life has been flipped upside down on and off the field during 2020.

But almost eight months on from her last taste of Women’s Six Nations action, the Ireland skipper insists she’s as eager as ever to get back out on the pitch.

The 26-year-old back-rower won the last of her 32 caps during Ireland’s disappointing 27-0 defeat against England ahead of the suspension of play, after leading her side to impressive opening victories over Scotland and Wales in the Championship’s opening two rounds.

Despite any hopes of a Grand Slam suddenly evaporating, Adam Griggs’ team had gathered huge momentum by already bettering their previous year’s points tally, until plans to complete the campaign against Italy and France were put on ice due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But while concerns over Ireland’s progress loomed large, Griffin’s professional and personal lives were also impacted, as she contended with the challenges associated with being a primary school teacher, and having a wedding scheduled for the height of summer.

Now, after showcasing flexibility and adaptability in the face of such challenges, Griffin isn’t fazed by the various protocols implemented to facilitate the return of rugby, and she simply can’t wait to get going again.

“It’s been a mad few months,” she said. “I’ve had to get used to using Microsoft Teams and virtual learning to help me with my teaching, and my wedding’s been moved back to December now instead of July.

“In terms of rugby, it is very different to how we were training back in March. We now have to do a Covid-19 assessment every morning, have regular checks and use our own water bottles and everything else.

“We also have travel ‘pods’ so we can go to camps and games with other players, but it means wearing masks and driving with the windows down so you have to make sure you wear plenty of layers!

“We’ve been back for four camps and a big thing for us is taking extra responsibility away from the rest of the squad. I don’t really see it as making sacrifices because it’s a decision, and it’s all a small price to pay to ensure we can get playing again safely.”

With just one defeat in the 2020 campaign so far, Ireland are hoping to yield victories from their final two games to push so-far undefeated England at the top of the standings, and head into December’s Women’s Rugby World Cup qualifier tournament in rich form.

A combination of injuries and the return of exciting names such as Beibhinn Parsons and 69-time capped Claire Molloy sees a slight shake-up in Griggs’ squad ahead of the visit of the Azzurre, and Griffin is buoyed by what she’s seen in training so far.

Revenge is on the Kerry-native’s mind after Italy secured a first-ever victory over Ireland in the 2019 Six Nations, and she is clear that securing a clean sweep of home wins is the target heading into winter.

She said: “Everyone’s hit the ground running since we’ve been back. The gap in play maybe gave us time to work on getting fitter and stronger, and now we’re all just really excited to get some playing minutes.

“You can’t sit on your laurels and that’s the great thing about this squad. Everyone is fighting for the jersey and their chance, and there are a lot of promising young players finding their feet which is really positive.

“Italy love expansive rugby and it’s going to be exciting to play against them, but the bottom line is that we want three home wins and we’re working incredibly hard to make that happen.

“We’re focused on going out there and playing the rugby we want, doing what we’ve been working on over the last four weeks in camp, and putting on a solid home performance.”

Canterbury, the official kit partner to Irish Rugby, has officially launched the new Ireland Women’s Rugby Home jersey that will be worn throughout the 2020/21 season. 

It is a new era for Irish Rugby, and the latest technology is at the heart of the new Ireland Women’s Rugby Home jersey which can be purchased from Monday 19th October in selected Intersport Elvery’s stores nationwide, at IrishRugby.ie and at Canterbury.com.