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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Peat: The Irish Fans Will Create An Electric Atmosphere

Peat: The Irish Fans Will Create An Electric Atmosphere

The Ireland Women’s squad are just days away from going into camp at UCD for the start of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, and prop Lindsay Peat cannot wait for the tournament to kick off in just a week’s time.

Ireland’s much-anticipated opener against Australia tomorrow week will see the UCD Bowl jam-packed with home fans roaring on the girls in green. With additional seating (on the grass bank) and terracing, the Belfield ground will house a capacity crowd of 3,500.

Lindsay Peat is one of 17 players in the Irish squad that are new to the WRWC stage, and she is clearly relishing the prospect of a buoyant Bowl faithful and the noise they will generate.

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“Even in the autumn internationals, we could feel the sound from just one stand. So to have fans covering the other sides of the Bowl too will be amazing,” said the Railway Union and Leinster prop.

“The Irish fans will bring that atmosphere – everybody coming in to travel will bring that atmosphere – but I think the Irish fans at home will hopefully come out in force and support us, and just create such an electric atmosphere that we can bounce off and hopefully put in performances that we can go pretty far with.”

Peat’s talent across multiple sports and her competitive nature and drive to succeed at the top level meant rugby has been an ideal fit for the genial Dubliner, who only started playing the game in the summer of 2015.

An underage soccer international as a teen, co-captain of the Ireland Women’s basketball team, and an All-Ireland winner with the Dublin Ladies Gaelic footballers at Croke Park in 2010, she will shortly add Rugby World Cup player to that list. Living circumstances – herself and her wife Claire had moved to Dundrum – and the persuasion of strength & conditioning coach Graham Byrne and his cousin Shirley Corcoran, the Railway Union director of Women’s rugby, saw Peat open up the next chapter of her sporting life with rugby.

Railway Union had an eager new player in Sevens firstly, and then Lindsay made strides in 15s, coming to the attention of the Ireland Women’s management (Anthony Eddy and Tom Tierney) for her physical strength, ball-handling ability and all-round potential.

Her Ireland call-up coincided with an incredible time in Lindsay and Claire’s life – the birth of their son Barra who arrived into the world just two weeks before Peat made her international rugby debut in November 2015 at a rain-soaked Stoop against World champions England.

Recalling that period at an ‘AIG Heroes’ event at Bluebell Community College earlier this year, the Artane woman, who is a qualified PE and biology teacher, said: “When I first spoke to Claire about it, she was like, ‘it’s Ireland calling, you don’t say no’. We gave it a chance and thankfully I’ve settled in well and people have had great patience with me and invested so much time.

“When I played in the Stoop it was my eighth ever rugby match. It’s ridiculous to say. Tom said, ‘I’ve thrown you in at the deep end, you’ve had a steep learning curve, and to be honest I’m going to throw you in at the deep end again in the Six Nations’.”

Moving from the back row initially to loosehead prop, Peat is really beginning to flourish in the front row. 11 more Test caps have followed, including seven starts out of eight in 2016/17. She was ever-present during this year’s Six Nations, scoring tries in the away victories over Scotland and Wales.

The 35-year-old’s consistency of performance earned her the 2017 Rugby Players Ireland Women’s Player of the Year award – her shock at the nomination alone spoke volumes about how she always puts the team first. Her own little team at home, Claire and Barra, are the inspiration she takes with her onto the field.

“After Barra was born, three months premature, that put a lot of things in perspective. He’s the inspiration now. He was in hospital, an incubator for weeks, went through blood transfusions, then viral meningitis, and is now thriving.

“So if this little thing of three-and-a-half pounds can get through that, I can get through a big of weight training and running. The tattoo (on her left arm inscribed with Barra’s birth date, in Roman numerals, and with three arrows crossing each other to represent the new family’s life together) is just a little reminder.”

Lindsay says her giving-it-her-all in pursuit of World Cup glory would not be possible without the unstinting support of her wife Claire, while the HSE have also backed her by allowing her to cut her clerical officer job down to two days a week as her training load increases.

“I only get the one chance to play in the World Cup. So, you have to give it everything. And everything is done together. Claire and I sit down, look at the diary two weeks in advance, and fill it in,” she explains.

“It comes with a few banging of heads, but it has to be done. But the family support has been great, her dad coming down, helping out where they can. I’ve cut down my days (at work) to two days a week to try and give it my full commitment. I stay at home three days a week and try and balance family life and training. Work are very good.”

Barely two years into her rugby career, Peat would very much deem herself ‘a work in progress’ as she continues to get to grips with the vagaries of the scrum and other technical aspects of the game. Once over that white line, she invokes a warrior spirit which comes naturally to a player who clearly revels in the team environment and the combative nature of Test rugby.

“We’ve huge characters in the squad, we’ve great camaraderie. If I’m not secure in the person who is to the left and right of me, then you have to be willing to die for that person. I know that sounds dramatic but every time we put on that Irish jersey, we’re going out to war to fight for our country, in a rugby sense, but that’s the bottom line of it.

“That camaraderie and that togetherness, that’s the epicentre, that’s the nucleus and that’s where good teams are built from. Regardless of their skill level, if they don’t have that, they’re not the same team.”

The Ireland Women are on the cusp of three big battles in Pool C of the World Cup, beginning with the Wallaroos on Wednesday, August 9, followed by Japan four days later and regular Six Nations rivals France in the final round on Thursday, August 17.

Tierney’s charges have enjoyed recent wins over Japan, in two trial games at UCD in June, and les Bleues at nearby Donnybrook in the spring. Peat is nearly jumping out of her skin for the tournament to begin in her native city.

“I was absolutely over the moon to get selected, couldn’t have asked for more. There was a big squad of players there to pick from, and to get the final nod in the 28, I’m ecstatic to be honest,” she admitted last week, following the Ireland WRWC 2017 squad announcement.

“This is the pinnacle of what you want to be playing in for any athlete at any level, whether it’s the Olympics or the World Cup. We’re hosting this World Cup and to be part of this panel going forward to represent our country, I’ve goosebumps just talking about it. I just can’t put into words how excited I am.

“I’m buzzing. I can’t wait to put on that jersey, sing the anthem and absolutely let loose, the whole lot of us, to get the ball rolling,” concluded Peat. She says she is just a big kid who loves playing sport. She is so much more than that, and Ireland are blessed to have her in their arsenal for a home World Cup.