We’ll be profiling Ulster Women’s players in the build up and during the Interprovincial series and having heard today that Ulster and Ireland’s Claire McLaughlin has been released to take part in the series we thought it would be a nice transition from the Women’s Autumn Series to the Interprovincial series if we started with Claire, Ulster’s most recent Irish Cap. 

Claire first came to our attention way back in April 2010 when she played for Ballymoney Women RFC in the Ulster Women’s Shield Final against Belfast Harlequins Women RFC. Claire lost out that day to an Ashleigh Baxter inspired Quin’s side but she stood out by virtue of her hard work and tackle count. 

Claire moved to Cooke the following season and under the guidance of Grace Davitt she picked up her first Ulster cap in 2011 though her appearances were cut short by injury.

Having started studying Medicine at Queens Claire left Cooke to play for a resurgent Queen’s side where she was one of the driving forces that saw Queens get into the All Ireland League for the first time. Unfortunately player losses at Queens saw Queens relegated the following season but by that time Claire had caught the attention of the Irish management and despite another poor season from the Queen’s side Claire finally got the recognition that her hard work warranted when she was called up for her first Irish appearance in an uncapped Autumn International this time last year.

Since then Claire has picked up four caps for Ireland, culminating in her starting last weekend’s match against New Zealand. We caught up with Claire after the game to see how she was enjoying the International arena: 

Bit of a rough start to the game Claire with that big hit from Portia Woodman, How did that settle you into the game?

Yeah, that kind of got me used to the physicality of the game. Did not see it coming!

You were playing out of position in the first half, how did you find that?

I found it difficult playing on the wing, I just haven’t played there that much before. I tried to play to my strengths but the ball didn’t come my side in the first half. It wasn’t really until the second half that I got the ball in hand that I got into the game. I got a couple of runs which was a relief.

What was the experience like playing against New Zealand?

Yeah, class! We tried to make it really not about the occasion, but obviously it is a huge occasion playing New Zealand, the best in the World. Standing up against the Haka is something I’ve never done before and it is pretty intimidating, but, we went out as a squad and we wanted to stick together as teammates, and we have our own culture here in Ireland as well and we held on to that.

It’s the fastest paced game I’ve ever played in, and I loved every minute of it…maybe every minute except when my ribs were crushed into the ground!

So after this series what have you got to work on ahead of the World Cup?

There’s a few things to work on. Physicality definitely. Canada and New Zealand are both massively physical teams.

We had problems at the breakdown in the last couple of games and we had quite a few turnovers, we made a few as well, but it’s been a problem, it’s something we need to work on.

We also need to work on our team defence to make sure we’re not unnecessarily committing too many to the breakdown and leaving ourselves short out wide.

Thanks to Claire for the interview. I’m sure she’ll continue to #BringIt for Ireland, but over the next few weeks I’m delighted that she will be #GivingIt for Ulster!