Special Report: Womens World Cup Rugby Starts 20th August / Ulster Womens Rugby

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Women’s Rugby In Ulster is on the up and in preparation for the Womens World Cup we caught up with some of the most talented players in Ulster.

Two Ulster players had made it to the final of The World Cup squad, Lauren day and Eliza Downey. Unfortunately Lauren sustained an injury in Ireland’s warm up game against Scotland and has had to withdraw from the squad. Eliza however will represent Ireland in the World Cup.

Eliza Downey & Lauren Day

Both players hail from Cooke RFC widely recognised as the best Women’s rugby side in Ulster.

It was appropriate to meet the girls at Cooke RFC perhaps the current centre of excellence in Women’s rugby.

We are pleased to see so many women getting involved in the sport.

There is so much happening in the sport here, from established teams honing their skills and lots of new squads springing up all over Ulster.

When Ireland play their first game against England at the World Cup (being televised at Cooke RFC on Friday 20th August at 6.30pm, 13 games being televised on Sky) there will be a massive global audience watching and what an honour it is to play at that level.

We asked Eliza Downey who plays for Cooke, Ulster & Ireland to give us a few words on how it feels, she said, “Its amazing, and I’m intensly focused on my game and my place on the squad, it’s hard to describe, it means so much. There was alot of competition for places, and the adrenaline when we step out on the pitch will be immense.”

Eliza is competing at the highest level, and it is not hard to imagine what she must be feeling in the build up to the World Cup. We wish her well, but let’s not forget also how devastated Lauren Day must have been when she learned she would have to miss it, she said ” Obviously i’m feeling low because of the injury, but i’m still heavily involved in the preparations with the squad, and everyone has been really supportive. The team has a great squad, and I will be supporting them all the way.”

– Irish Rugby Eliza Downey Video Interview Click Here

Fortunately Laurens injury is not career threatening and we are looking forward to seeing her pull on the Ireland Jersey once again, she has played Six Nation’s Rugby and of course it won’t be that long before The Six Nations is on again.

It brings the context of Women’s Rugby in Ulster into prespective when you meet the girls and get a feel for the total focus they have on rugby. Its inspiring and has inspired the younger generation of women coming up through the ranks and we were delighted to meet at Cooke two girls who are doing just that. Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins Womens Rugby) and Nikki Caughey (Malone Womens Rugby) are both making that break through to Ulster level and again it shows the open and professional structure of Ulster rugby that while Nikki has been playing rugby since she was 5 years old on the other hand Ashleigh has only been playing for a few years, both are highly talented and have been spotted.

Lauren Day, Suzi Fleming, Ashleigh axter, Nikki Caughey, Eliza Downey, Rachel Derwin

When we asked them what they think of rugby, the answer was a resounding thumbs up. To put it simply they do love the sport and like many have played other sports, but then thats rugby, once you get the bug it has a tendancy of taking over.

Congratulations to Nikki on winning the Ulster U19 player of the year award.

A bright future awaits Nikki and Ashleigh and we hope to bring you updates on their careers.

Not so long ago, there were only one or two sides in Ulster and the people who play the sport now are benefiting from the pioneering work of two Cooke players who have represented their province and captained at Club, Provincial and Ireland levels.

Suzi Fleming and Rachel Derwin have done it all, Rachel has captained Ulster and Cooke, and played at Ireland level, Suzi played and captained at all three levels. They bring a mature approach to the development of womens Rugby and their experience proves invaluable to all those arround them.

Ashleigh Baxter, Rachel Derwin, Lauren Day, Eliza Downey, Suzi Fleming, Nikki Caughey

We asked Suzi (pictured above 2nd from right) her thoughts on Womens Rugby in Ulster, she said, “Its very good, there are alot of new teams and lots of new faces, with new people joining the sport all the time, in the last few years the number of teams has doubled, and the future looks very good indeed”

Rachel added, “There is alot of competition for Back Row coming through, Ulster has some really talented people coming through the ranks.” Rachel is pictured above 2nd from left.

The game is on the up in Ulster, we were also able to catch up with a member of the Ulster Women’s Committee, Natalie Bryant, she said, “”Ulster Womens Rugby has come along way in the last three years, in 2007 there was Cooke, Carrick and Queens in the Belfast area. We now also have Harlequins, Ards, and Malone, so the numbers have doubled. This is mirrored across the province. The Ulster squad is chosen from these teams, and we are delighted to have representative honours on the Irish squad competing in this years World Cup. The future is assured, but we want to keep developing the sport and welcome all newcommers to any of the teams as well as new teams. Anyone can get involved by contacting Joy Sparks the Ulster Womens Rugby deleopment officer or just find you local team and join them. All clubs wishing to start teams, will get lots of help from Ulster Rugby.” Natalie Bryant, Member of the Ulster Women’s Committee, Team Manager of Belfast Harlequins Women’s Rugby & Ulster East Regional Development Squad.

Of course we on the sidelines have it easy. I for one cannot wait to sit back and enjoy the Womens Womens World Cup and look forward to covering Womens Rugby in Ulster moving Forward.

It was a treat to be allowed to access to these players and special thanks must go to the players not to mention Natalie who was able to organise the interviews for us.

If you are interested in finding out more about womens rugby in ulster, why not come along to the innaugural Belfast Harlequins Womens 7’s in August! To find out more click here – Harlequins Rugby 7’s – Click Here

You can also keep up to date with whats happening on the Ulster Womens facebook.
– Ulster Womens Rugby facebook Page – Click Here


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