With four tries in six games, Jenny Murphy made an invaluable contribution to Ireland’s cause at the Women’s Sevens Dublin tournament as Anthony Eddy’s charges booked their World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series berth with an impressive second place finish.
Ireland required a top two finish in order to secure their qualification, and even though their dramatic 13-12 Cup final loss to Japan was a bittersweet moment for the hosts at the UCD Bowl, an earlier semi-final triumph over South Africa ensured their progress to the World Series.
Captain Lucy Mulhall amassed a personal tally of 16 points in Ireland’s outstanding 26-14 success against the Springbok Women, and having lost to the same opponents in their third Pool C fixture on Saturday, Ireland showed great character to avenge that loss.
An impressive performance in the quarter-final against China set up this crunch encounter, and Jenny Murphy felt it was important to have that game under their belts leading into the rematch with South Africa.
“That loss on the first day against South Africa was tough, but I think it worked out well for us in the end. We came all guns blazing on day two, and against China…a big, physical team,” remarked Murphy.
“We coped well with that, and then we finally got a chance to have a second crack at South Africa. We were delighted, and we had a good game that game too.”
Along with her success in the 15-a-side game in recent years (she has won two Six Nations titles and appeared at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup), the Old Belvedere clubwoman’s pace and power is ideally suited to Sevens.
However, the net has been cast wide for the current Ireland Sevens squad, and in addition to former hockey international Audrey O’Flynn, the aforementioned Mulhall had a strong background in Ladies Gaelic football before her recent move to Rathdrum RFC. Murphy acknowledged that this was beneficial for the group, with each player bringing a different dynamic to the environment.
“There’s players from across Ireland that have come over from hockey, Gaelic football, and 15s rugby as well. Every player has brought something to the team, and aim to bring a bit more. It’s a good bunch, and we’re just aiming to push on now.”
Sevens has been a unique experience for Murphy to date, as she has often found herself involved in scrummaging, as well as lifting in lineouts. Although she is still able to play in a similar style to 15s rugby, she believes that playing both codes is helping her to become a better all-round player.
“I tend to be a slightly bigger player on the Sevens pitch in terms of physicality than maybe I would in 15s. I wouldn’t call it propping, it would be ‘fake propping’ as some of the girls in the 15s would call it! Different positions, but at the end of the day, it’s still throwing around an oval shaped ball.
“You become a better rugby player. You don’t become a better Sevens player or a better 15s player. Obviously you pick up bits and bobs along the way that are specific to Sevens or specific to 15s, but they both benefit each other, so if you’re doing well in 15s, hopefully you’ll be doing well in Sevens too. They complement each other.”
Now that they are in the World Series for 2015/16, Murphy feels that it will be a massive help towards their attempts to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. With just one spot available from next June’s World Olympic Repechage tournament, Ireland aim to make it theirs.
“You need to be playing against the best to get up to the best. All the best teams are on the World Series, and now we are too. It will massively help come Olympic qualification.
“There’s only one spot left (for Rio), and we aim to take it. To do that, we need to be playing against the best teams. That’s what we’re going to be doing over the next year,” added the 26-year-old.