LAURA Sheehan hopes her decision to join Exeter Chiefs Women’s squad will boost her chances of being involved with Ireland’s World Cup qualification bid later this year.
The 27-year-old Urhan woman has swapped Dublin for Exeter as she looks to force her way into Adam Griggs’ Ireland team on a regular basis.
Having impressed with UL Bohemians and Munster in recent seasons, Sheehan feels the move to Exeter Chiefs will give her the edge ahead of a huge year on the international front.
The Women’s Six Nations – which is set to be pushed back until April and May – and 2021 Rugby World Cup qualification, and hopefully the tournament in New Zealand, are the big targets in the year ahead.
‘There are no games happening at home at the moment, unfortunately, and nothing for the foreseeable future so I just want to push for the chance of game time and the chance to train more full-time in a 15s environment and try to push on that way,’ Sheehan told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘I want to get an edge, I’m on the fringes with the Irish squad so I need to do something new if I want something new to happen, and to gain new skills.
‘There is a lot up in the air at the moment, with the Women’s Six Nations and with the Premiership (in England), but I still said I’d take the chance, try something new and see what happens.’
Sheehan has won four senior international caps, the latest in last October’s rearranged Six Nations game against Italy when, as a late replacement, she starred in a 21-7 win. Afterwards, Ireland head coach Adam Griggs hailed the Beara woman’s performance as ‘fantastic’ and ‘outstanding’.
‘I got to put myself in a good position in that Italy match, I really enjoyed it and it reminded me of how much I love playing rugby,’ Sheehan said.
‘As much as I like training, nothing beats playing a match for enjoyment – that’s your reward for all the training. The more games I play, the better I’ll get.
‘I’ve been involved in a lot of training over the last few years, I’ve been in the Ireland 15s and Ireland 7s set-ups, and I have been on the fringes of both so I’ve ended up doing a lot of training, but I just want to push for match time because nothing beats games.’
That’s the reason why Sheehan reached out to Exeter Chiefs Women’s set-up last month, to see was there the possibility that she could train with the team that competes in the Premier 15s, the top level of English women’s rugby. A season-ending hamstring injury to Exeter winger Janine Duncan meant a deal that suited both Sheehan and the club was quickly reached.
‘Laura is a very good winger and I’m really excited to see what she can bring to the squad. She has experience of playing on the 7s circuit, as well as at 15s level, so she is used to being in and around that professional environment. She reached out to us in the wake of Janine’s injury and she said she wanted to come here and shoot for a World Cup spot,’ Exeter head coach Susie Appleby explained.
Sheehan, who works for PWC and is based in Dublin, got the green light from her employers to continue working from home, albeit home for the next few months is in Exeter. Once everything was in place, Sheehan flew to England on December 28th to link up with her new team.
‘It’s a really high standard and there are a lot of international players in the squad,’ Sheehan explained.
‘We have players like Patricia Garcia from Spain and Laura Delgado Duenaz and they’re both very experienced internationals so the standard is high.
‘The standard of coaching is excellent too with head coach Susie Appleby and assistant coach Amy Garnett; they’re both former England internationals who played on the biggest stage and Amy had 100 caps.
‘We have sessions too with some of the men’s coaches so we are doing kicking with Gareth Steenson and in other sessions they do defence and attack, and skills, so it’s a very comprehensive set-up and it’s really well integrated into the men’s team as well.
‘Exeter Chiefs is all one, which is brilliant, so you are getting quality training and quality feedback.
‘It’s a new team, they only came in last year, they are still developing, but it’s a very good set-up to be coming into.’
The chance to link up with Exeter Chiefs will give Sheehan an opportunity to play games at a time when the domestic game in Ireland is on hold because of the pandemic.
With Ireland’s World Cup qualification bid, hopefully, picking up speed later in the year, she wants to play her part in helping the team qualify for the World Cup tournament which takes place in New Zealand in September and October.
‘It’s a massive goal for us, it’s what you train for, to be part of these days and to qualify for a World Cup would be fantastic. If we got the chance to go to New Zealand it would be amazing. We have a lot of work done but we still have a lot of work to do, but the ultimate goal is to get there,’ Sheehan added.