Few bleed more provincial red than Munster’s Dorothy Wall. The powerful back rower will undoubtedly be a key figure in the defence of their Interprovincial title over the next few weeks.
Niamh Briggs’ charges, who are bidding to be crowned champions for a third season in a row, kick off the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship against Ulster at City of Armagh RFC this afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
Despite her young age, the 23-year-old Wall has quickly become one of the most experienced players in Irish Women’s rugby, making her a leader within the Munster ranks. It is a responsibility that she takes in her stride, enjoying every moment that she has in the red jersey.
“It’s why I love the game. I was obsessed with the Under-18s when I was 16, 17, 18, thinking about the future and going out and playing for Munster,” she said, speaking at the launch of this year’s Championship.
“We won an Interpro myself, Enya Breen and Emily Lane, I bring it up in every interview I do! But they were core memories for me and my family.
“My brother (Andrew) is playing for the Munster U-18 Schools team at the moment too so there is actually a clash in fixtures, with one in Armagh and the other in Belfast. We’ll see where our parents go!
“It’s huge in my family, there is a great pride in it. I’d do anything to put on a Munster jersey.”
Munster were deserved winners of the tournament last January, completing a clean sweep by beating all of the other three provinces in convincing fashion. They outscored their rivals by a combined 110 points to 41.
Every successful team strives to be better than their last game or competition. Wall, who captains Munster today in the injury-enforced absence of Nicole Cronin, insists that the defending champions are always looking to improve in all areas of the game.
We are working on every aspect – detail around the set-piece, physicality – and we put a lot of emphasis on our execution around the ruck.
“That’s obviously a Munster stronghold being good in that physical battle and being really clean around the breakdown. There is a lot of detail going into our fitness and around the contact area.”
One thing you can almost guarantee with every Munster team is a standout back row who can use their power to get a physical edge over the opposition. It is a consistent theme of the Munster identity and the Women’s team is no different.
Wall lines up in the back row today with Maeve Óg O’Leary (pictured below) and the strong-carrying Chloe Pearse, two of the very best operators in the country. Also primed to be involved off the bench is Deirbhile Nic a Bháird, who has been playing at number 8 or hooker.
When asked about her bond with O’Leary in particular, Wall was full of praise for her fellow Tipperary woman.
“She’s one of my best friends, she’s so impressive. She had a hard run internationally and she probably didn’t get the game-time she deserved.
“She out-trains nearly everyone around her, she helps drive the standard. She’s one of the kindest people you can meet. She’s one of my best friends and it’s nice to hit the road down to Limerick together and we work well off each other.”
This weekend will be the start of a busy schedule for all of the players. The Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division starts up in late September, with the inaugural WXV competition launching in October. Wall welcomes the opportunity to play more games.
“We have four games before we move into the internationals, and that’s probably something we didn’t have in the past. Game-time is gold. We have four games to get ready for an international competition,” she explained.
Scott Bemand was announced as the new Ireland Women’s head coach a fortnight ago. He was previously part of the England coaching set-up, helping them to win six Six Nations titles (including five Grand Slams), and finish as runners-up at the 2017 and 2021 Rugby World Cups.
Wall is looking forward to see what ideas he brings to the table when he takes up his new position on Monday week.
“He is a Women’s head coach who is coming from a winning Women’s team. I think anything would be an improvement on last season.
“It would be good to have his insight. In a way, this is our lowest point, so somebody with that experience and exposure can really help us get to a higher peak.”
Although disappointed to be competing in the third tier of the new WXV competition, it gives the girls in green a chance to start afresh and begin building for the future.
Wall admitted it is not where they want to be, but they have to use the platform to build confidence and momentum within the squad.
“We are disappointed to be in the third tier but it is what it is. It’s out of our control. It’s how we deal with that going forward.”
Ireland captain Nichola Fryday recently announced her retirement from international rugby. She will be a huge loss to the group. Her departure means a new skipper will have to be chosen.
With 20 caps to her name, Wall has more experience than most in this young Ireland team. A Munster vice-captain this season, some would consider her a candidate for the Ireland captaincy despite her young age.
For Wall this is the furthest thing from her mind, as she admitted: “I haven’t thought about it. We have a lot of work to do and captaincy is the least of my worries and it’s the same for other senior players. It’s about building momentum.
“Nichola gave so much to the Irish jersey and I know it has been said that she retired early or whatever, but she was that player who never went on holiday or missed anything.
“She was the hardest working and most diligent player who gave everything to this place (Ireland camp at the IRFU High Performance Centre). It took from her at times too. She’s over in England now and I wish her all the best.”