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Posted: 3rd May 2022

Jorja Battishill - Ireland U’18’s Inaugural Women’s 6 Nations

Having been selected to represent Ulster in the Interprovincial series last year, I was then selected to attend trials for Ireland at the High-Performance Sports Centre in Dublin over three successive weekends in March, staying over at the Carlton Hotel each weekend. The initial cohort of players on trial included six individuals from Ulster, the other 30 came from across Ireland. The 36 individuals would be culled to 26 on the last weekend, which made things very tense.

Having recently passed my driving test the drive down for the first weekends training was quite daunting, but at the same time quite fulfilling. The training itself was complicated, physical, and more demanding than anything I had previously experienced. Training twice a day for both days was very tiring. However, there was lots of down time for socialising and recovery. Sarah Delaney who plays for Leinster was my roommate for the first two weekends. A fellow forward, we got on really well. On reflection after the first weekend I was unsure if I would make the cut due my performance not meeting my usual high expectations. Perhaps nerves were at play!

The second weekend went well, Pops the coach reinforced that I was most definitely capable and able to operate at this level and helped me with my confidence. During that weekend we got to see the full Ireland ladies team play against Wales. It was a good game, but we lost 17-27. We also played our own training match where I scored a try, which helped my confidence and gave me belief in my ability. I also got a black eye, which looked pretty cool I thought…

The third weekend mainly consisted of training, selection, and kit issue, so a nervous weekend for all. Thankfully, I made it along with three others from Ulster and was selected to play for Ireland in the U18 Six Nations in Edinburgh. I was so delighted I phoned my parents as soon as I could. They were so proud.

The U18 Six Nations commenced mid-week with a flight out of Dublin to Edinburgh on Thursday 7th April. The team met at the airport all wearing their newly issued rugby kit, it was quite a moment to behold. The flight out was bumpy and uncomfortable, but we landed safely and were ferried to our accommodation for the next 7 days at the Holiday Inn near Edinburgh Zoo.

The first two games were scheduled for Saturday, so the focus of activity over the first few days was drills, pitch sessions, recovery sessions all in preparation for game day. It gave me a good understanding of the life of a professional Sports person. The first game against England was a very closely fought match, our structured play was very effective, and our defense was good. However, it’s a game we should have won, but unfortunately England scored in the last few minutes. With the final score 17-12. The second game that day was against France. They were a very powerful and well-rehearsed team who unfortunately put us to the sword, losing 26-0. My Nan, Grandad and Brother were there to watch and most definitely made themselves heard.

The final game against Wales was going to be played in the DAM Hill Stadium in the Shadow of Murrayfield. The game was highly contested, our forwards dominated, but their backs were the difference. I personally played very well and won 13/13 lineouts. I also dummied their players in our own 22 and made significant yardage. My defense was good, and my scrummaging was excellent, unfortunately the final result was 17-10 to Wales. My Mum and Dad were there for this Match, they too made themselves heard. The match was also televised, which was great, I got to watch the game back, multiple times to my parent’s annoyance. Analysis, analysis!

In all I was very proud to play for my country, I enjoyed the experience immensely and sincerely hope that more young girls take up the sport. The future for me I hope; is to continue my rugby journey, get stronger, fitter, improve my athletic performance and maybe even play for Ireland women’s full team, who knows what the future will bring! Hoping that my A-level results go to plan, I will be going to Hartpury University in Gloucestershire where I hope to be playing lots of rugby and maybe even playing in the Premiership with Gloucester Women’s rugby.


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