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Women’s National Talent Squad Up and Running

Women’s National Talent Squad Up and Running

Leinster's Aoife Dalton is pictured in action against Connacht during the PwC Under-18 Women's Interprovincial Championship at the IRFU High Performance Centre last August ©INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy

Earlier this month the Women’s National Talent Squad (WNTS) programme kicked off with a skill development camp at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Dublin.

The WNTS programme aims to identify, develop and support female players that have the potential to be selected for national squads and to accelerate their understanding of the demands of rugby at the elite level.

WNTS players will be provided with education in the areas of strength and conditioning, performance nutrition and video analysis, and will be exposed to a high performance environment through a series of development camps.

The first players inducted into the programme have been identified via IRFU Talent Coaches, provincial coaches and staff and club coaches. Establishing a sustainable talent identification network is a key deliverable for the programme.

The WNTS operates out of the IRFU’s High Performance Centre on the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin and is coordinated and delivered by IRFU Women’s Performance Pathway coach Katie Fitzhenry, a former Ireland 15s and Sevens international, and Neill Alcorn, the Ulster Women’s head coach.

Initially 13 players have been enrolled in the programme which supports the Ireland Under-18 15s squad and is aligned with the National Women’s 15s and Sevens programmes to enable WNTS talent to be exposed to the senior women’s environment.

WNTS players Aoife Dalton, Leah Tarpey and Emma Tilly were recently included in the 41-player training squad assembled by Ireland Women’s head coach Greg McWilliams.  The next WNTS camp is scheduled for the weekend of March 19-20.

IRFU Women’s Performance Pathway coach Katie Fitzhenry commented: “It was great to get the programme up and running and to give these young athletes their first taste of a high performance environment.

“These players have been identified through a mixture of the Under-18 Interpros last year and from feedback from provincial and club coaches.

“Developing a strong talent ID network will be a big focus of the programme as it grows year on year catering for more young female talent.

The aim of this programme is to advance players to a level where they can pull on a green jersey whether that is in 15s or Olympic Sevens or be integrated into the senior women’s programmes.

“There is great alignment and support for the WNTS so it is an exciting time to be getting this programme up and running.”


Player/Age/Club/Province/School/College –

Sophie Barrett (18) – Enniskillen RFC/Ulster; Integrated College, Enniskillen

Molly Boote (17) – Connemara RFC/Connacht; Clifden Community School

Hannah Clarke (16) – Oughterard RFC/Connacht; St. Paul’s Secondary School

Aoife Dalton (18) – Tullamore RFC/Leinster; UCD

Alanna Fitzpatrick (17) – Portarlington RFC/Leinster; Colaiste Iosagain, Portarlington

Kate Flannery (18) – Fethard & District RFC/Munster; Rockwell College

Brianna Heylmann (18) – Tipperary Women’s Rugby/Munster; Waterpark College

Aisling McEnroe (17) – Virginia RFC/Ulster; Cavan Institute

Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (17) – Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht; Scoil Chumsitheach Chiarain

Dannah O’Brien (18) – Tullow RFC/Leinster; Tullow Community School

Eva Sterritt (17) – Greystones RFC/Leinster; Temple Carrig School, Greystones

Leah Tarpey (18) – Tullamore RFC/Leinster; Mountmellick Community School

Emma Tilly (18) – MU Barnhall RFC/Leinster; Maynooth Post Primary School