Mallow rugby ace is confident Ireland sevens team can kick up the gears

Mallow rugby ace is confident Ireland sevens team can kick up the gears
Emily Lane of Munster during the U18 Interprovincial Series match between Leinster and Munster at Seapoint RFC, Dublin. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

MALLOW youngster Emily Lane does not hide her frustration at how Ireland women’s sevens team have performed in their World Series campaign.

A senior international since August 2018 — she debuted in a Rugby Europe tournament in Kazan, Russia — Lane was part of the side that claimed fourth spot at the Sydney Sevens a year ago.

This season has been something of a struggle for Stan McDowell’s charges, with an eighth-place finish last October, in Glendale, the highlight of their campaign.

On their return to Australia, in February, they had to settle for 11th place for the third tournament in succession.

Lane can’t quite explain why they haven’t performed to the level expected, but is adamant the squad can turn things around.

“It’s been quite a disappointing season for us. We’ve had a lot of discussions about where we are in the table. It’s nowhere near where we want to be or where we expected to be,” Lane says.

“It has been quite tough, compared to last year. My first [World Series] cap was in Sydney and we came fourth, which was the highest we’d ever ranked,” Lane says.

“We’re not really sure what’s going wrong for us, but we’re just trying to get more consistency in our results and our performances, because we can go out and play unbelievable against a team one day and then, the next day, just completely go to shambles.

“This season it is disappointing, but I love to play and we love to get every opportunity to get out on the pitch and try to get better every time,” Lane says.

“Learn from everything we’ve done this season and try to bring the good things from previous seasons,” she says.

Ulster's Neve Jones with Stephanie Nunan and Emily Lane of Munster. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Ulster's Neve Jones with Stephanie Nunan and Emily Lane of Munster. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Despite their below-par form — not to mention the postponement of several tournaments, due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus — the UCD student’s passion for the sevens game remains undiminished.

She is a product of the underage sevens system, having played often for the U18 side, before progressing up the ladder. As a consequence of this early exposure, Lane’s transition to the senior ranks was seamless.

“There’s 10 or more that I’ve played with [at underage] that are now in the senior set-up. It’s so helpful, having players that you’ve played with before,” Lane says.

“When we first came in, it was kind of reassuring. It’s not like, ‘oh my God, these people are unbelievable. Why am I here?’

“When you know girls in there, it makes it easier to make that transition,” Lane says.

“Plus, the quality that you get from playing underage, it really helps. I had Stan McDowell as my coach underage the first year.

“The second year, he did a bit and Lucy Mulhall, our current [senior] captain, did coaching, as well. Which was amazing when I was 17, looking up to her.

“I still look up to her, but that was a great experience for me,” Lane says. In the past couple of years, a host of players have been capped at both 7s and 15s international level for Ireland.

From those who featured in the back-to-back trips to Hamilton and Sydney, at the start of this year, Katie Fitzhenry, Louise Galvin, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, and Hannah Tyrrell are all notable exponents of the latter code.

While Lane’s current preference is for the sevens game, she doesn’t rule out a future switch to 15s rugby.

“I don’t play any 15s. You don’t get much time when you’re on the sevens programme. We train four days a week.

“It’s hard. Some girls do play, but I’ve decided to focus all of my time on sevens. At the minute, I’m really enjoying sevens,” Lane says.

“I love how you get every aspect of the game. It’s so quick,” she says.

“If you make a mistake, who cares. You have to keep going. You can’t just stop and think about it.

“Whereas, I feel in 15s, it’s obviously a much slower game. I found, when I used to play, I’d get very nervous.

“I used to play 10 and, obviously, there’s a lot of responsibility when you’re playing out-half. I just prefer the free-flowing style of sevens, but I wouldn’t say no to playing 15s,” Lane says.

Emily Lane of Munster during the U18 Interprovincial Series match between Leinster and Munster at Seapoint RFC, Dublin. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Emily Lane of Munster during the U18 Interprovincial Series match between Leinster and Munster at Seapoint RFC, Dublin. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Though Lane is still a registered member of Mallow, the Keatleysclose club currently doesn’t have an adult women’s section.

Still, with girls teams at U14, U16, and U18, there is every chance this could change.

Additionally, another local — Anna Caplice — has delivered a string of outstanding displays for the Ireland 15s in recent times and secured an international ‘Player of the Year’ nomination in 2019.

She now lines out for English Premiership side Harlequins, having previously represented UL Bohemian, but continues to have a big impact in her hometown.

“She [Caplice] has a massive mural on one of the pubs in town. It’s really cool.

“It brings a lot more interest to the girls. I think the club in Mallow is really growing. I wouldn’t really get down there much,” Lane says.

“My younger sister played, but she did her ACL, so she’s not playing anymore. She hasn’t played in a while,” Lane says.

“People like Anna, it’s unreal to have her come from the same club as you.

“She’s an unbelievable player.

“She’s a person I’d definitely look up to,” Lane says.

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