PICTURES - Irish rugby legend Nora Stapleton visits Portarlington RFC

Express Reporter

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Portarlington Rugby Club recently made a commitment to make rugby accessible to girls and women of all ages in their community.

The club are now fielding teams from U-12s to senior women’s level and they are looking for new players of all ages to join them.

To help with the promotion of girls’ rugby in Portarlington, former Ireland international Nora Stapleton paid a visit last week and the grand slam winner was a huge hit with players, coaches and parents and she assisted with training sessions before sharing her stories and advice during an engaging questions and answers session the clubhouse.

Stapleton, who appeared at three Women’s Rugby World Cups on her way to winning fifty caps, now works as the Women’s and Girls’ Rugby Development Executive at the IRFU. When Portarlington’s Eibhlín Smith contacted her and invited her to the club, the Donegal native jumped at the chance to help and to demonstrate the IRFU’s commitment to the development of girls’ and women’s rugby as outlined in their recent strategic plan.

Portarlington and Cill Dara Rugby Clubs have recently amalgamated in order to combine their player and coaching resources and this has led to the creation of a PortDara Club for girls and women’s teams. The initial signs are hugely encouraging with all players enjoying their rugby and results on match days continuing to impress. U-16s coach Corman Smith says that he hopes that Nora Stapleton’s visit will encourage new players to join their teams. “We would love to see more girls getting involved. It really doesn’t matter if you’ve never played before because our coaches and your teammates will help you to learn the skills that you need. Our teams are really welcoming and you will have the time of your life!”

Nora spent time on the training pitches with all teams as she encouraged players to practice their basic skills and work together to improve as a group and coaches picked up some really valuable tips from a woman who masterminded Ireland’s amazing 17-14 victory over New Zealand in the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup when playing in the crucial out half position.

Stapleton was then joined in the clubhouse by the players, their coaches and parents for a Q&A session. She spoke about that famous victory, the importance of nutrition, her favourite rugby memories and her thoughts on whether Ireland will follow New Zealand and England in developing professional rugby for women.

Portarlington’s Chairman David Hainsworth was delighted with the event and thanked Nora who was presented with a gift on behalf of everyone involved. “This visit has been a huge boost for all of the girls and we hope that it encourages new players to join us.

We are working in line with the 20x20 strategy that asks communities to shift the focus away from boys only sport and give equal support to girls teams. This means increasing player numbers and PR coverage by 20% before 2020 and we would like to think that we are leading the way in that respect but we will only achieve what we want to achieve if we succeed in welcoming more and more players to our teams”.

All girls teams train from 7.00pm to 8.00pm on Mondays in Portarlington and on Thursdays in Cill Dara. No playing experience is needed and further information is available on the club’s website www.portarlingtonrugby.com