Ireland Women Face Toughest Foe in Unbeaten Neighbours England

Article excerpt

Byline: Liam Heagney

IT'S TEST rugby with a stark difference. England take on Ireland again today in the Six Nations but unlike yesterday's stellar occasion at Twickenham where 82,000 gathered for a men's game, this afternoon's Anglo-Irish women's clash goes ahead minus ceremony.

While rugby is a full-time job for the likes of O'Driscoll and O'Connell, Ireland's women - whose varied occupations include teaching, aircraft mechanic, doctor, garda and even a GAA development officer - fit in their rugby when possible.

A case study is Joanne O'Sullivan, the Kent-born Ireland back with Limerick parents. 'Manic' is how she describes the juggling of precious time. She works nine to five, five days a week in central London as a stag and hen party organiser.

Add an hour commute each way and you'd imagine it leaves little scope for training. She improvises, rising at six so she can train before work, while there is also an evening session four times a week.

It's unstinting commitment made all the more admirable by the fact that women's rugby only finally integrated fully with the IRFU in 2008.

Before that, O'Sullivan, a 28-year-old with 47 caps earned over an eight-year period, had to dip into her own pocket, often paying out upwards of [euro]2,000 annually to cover the cost of flying to Ireland.

'I very much had to work to play really,' she explains, thankful that the improved off-field structure covered the cost of her 22 flights home on rugby business last season. …