IN an alternative universe that didn’t include the Coronavirus outbreak, Mallow native Anna Caplice would currently be preparing for an exciting summer tour with the Ireland women’s rugby team.
Adam Griggs’ charges had been set to play three tests across late July and early August, ahead of a crunch World Cup qualifying tournament in the autumn. Unfortunately, the global pandemic disrupted sporting activity across the nation and these fixtures consequently fell by the wayside.
As disappointed as she is not to be lining out for her country in the coming weeks, Caplice is putting it all into perspective.
“It’s really strange. Going on a summer tour and having summer fixtures, it would have been the first time I experienced something like that. I think if you’d told me this eventually wasn’t going to materialise, I would have been devastated,” Caplice acknowledged.
“Actually, there’s no regret and there’s no tipping our shoulders over missing it because of the way the pandemic has rolled out. I suppose all we can do now is just keep focusing on ourselves in terms of developing ourselves to be the best athletes we can be by the time we can get back to it.”
While there isn’t a definitive road map in place for international rugby just yet, Caplice is optimistic that she will be back in the green jersey before the end of 2020. The prospect of finishing out this year’s Six Nations is particularly enticing for the versatile back-row, following the postponement of their scheduled meetings with Italy and France in March.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll get the remaining Six Nations games and the qualifiers played this year. That’s kind of the feeling I have within my bones. We were in a really good place in the Six Nations. It was a real shame that we didn’t get to finish it out.
“I was really looking forward to that Italy fixture, because obviously we lost to them last year in Parma. I was really looking forward to playing them in Dublin. Chatting to team-mates, everyone is working really hard. I think it makes for a very exciting return to rugby, whenever that may be.”
Caplice will also be eager for a resumption of club action, having enjoyed a memorable debut campaign with Harlequins in the English Premiership. Prior to the league being cancelled in mid-March, ‘Quins were just two points behind London rivals Saracens with six games remaining in the regular season.
“It was all shaping up nicely for that second Saracens fixture. We would have had to play them away up in Allianz Park. It was going to be a massive fixture for them. We have a game changer fixture every season, where we just put massive amounts of coverage and advertising to get people along to the game.
“That would have been their equivalent of that. It would have been a massive crowd and really exciting. It was a real shame that we didn’t get to finish that out. Then eventually we would have hopefully met them again in a knock-out stage. Disappointing to have missed out on that, but this coming season that rivalry is definitely still going to be there.”
In addition to being a playing member of the club, Caplice has also been working for the Harlequins Foundation in the past year as a development officer in the Kingston Borough area of England’s capital city.
There is a growing Munster contingent within ‘Quins, with fellow Cork woman Leah Lyons and Gillian Bourke (Limerick) also part of the women’s squad at present. Caplice is also excited by the arrival of former provincial legend Jerry Flannery as the new lineout coach in the men’s section of the club.
“It will be really great for Harlequins to have someone like Jerry Flannery coaching them. He’s a wonderful character to have in any squad. He was one of my favourite players, when I used to watch Munster playing when I was a teenager,” says Caplice, who is currently enjoying an extended stay in her hometown.
“He’ll be a massive addition for them and a really positive character too. It’s lovely to have Leah and Gill there. Gill especially. She was my team-mate in UL Bohs. We played together for so long and to still be playing together across the water is really special.”