On the 1st April 2017, Leinster Rugby took on Wasps in the Quarter-Finals of the European Rugby Champions Cup in the Aviva Stadium in front of over 50,000 people.

But the action wasn’t restricted to the 30 Leinster and Wasps players on the field scrambling for a place in the Champions Cup Semi-Finals.

No. Four underage teams from across Leinster also took to the field and took part in the Bank of Ireland half-time minis.

In one of the games, Kilkenny RFC girls Under 14 team played against their counterparts from Newbridge RFC and one of their players, Sophie Rafter, composed a poem after her experience and sent it to Leinster Rugby.

Thank you Sophie for the wonderful letter and even better poem!

And here it is…

Rugby is my Favourite Hobby

by Sophie Rafter, Kilkenny RFC, U14s 

Conversions, penalties, scrums and a try,
If anyone says they don’t like it, I sigh!
Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Josh van der Flier,
Sometimes you come out of a match deaf from people shouting in your ear!
Rugby is diverse, there’s a spot for everyone,
And most people think that it’s lots of fun!
Leinster, Leinster they chant at every match,
Run Ringrose, run, get the ball and catch!
Tighthead props, locks, centres, flankers and wing,
Everyone loves rugby so hip hip hooray we sing!
Running, push ups and sit ups are the drill,
To play rugby practice makes perfect and you have to have a lot of skill!
RDS, Thomond, Sportsground and Kingspan,
Everyone enjoys the match, lady, child or man!
Rugby is the best,
And everyone knows that it’s better than all the rest!

Sophie Rafter, and her Kilkenny RFC U14s team, pictured with Andrew Porter and Peter Dooley before their game in the Aviva Stadium. 

Over the last few years, there has been an explosion in the number of girls, like Sophie, and women playing rugby in Leinster.

Some of the topline figures are outlined below:

  2010 2017
# Women’s Teams 16 18
# Mini Girls Teams 0 29
# Youth U18 Girls Teams 0 25
# Youth U15 Girls Teams 0 22
# Schools Girls Teams 0 64

One of the major barriers to further growth in this area is the lack of female volunteers to support these teams – these girls need coaches!

Some of the women who have taken on coaching roles recently see only positives in helping the next generation of female player to develop and would encourage others to follow suit.

Nicole Kirwan was a young player with Portarlington RFC when she began coaching the club’s U12 team as part of her Gaisce award.

“I really enjoyed coaching those girls,” Nicole told leinsterrugby.ie. “I loved seeing them learn and they were really fun.”

The following season Nicole progressed to become assistant coach with the U15 team.

“The older girls want to learn more and they try really hard to do things well. We made it to the Leinster Finals Day this year where the girls were fantastic. It was one of my proudest coaching moments so far.”

When injury forced Lorna O’Connor to stop playing, she felt coaching was the perfect way to stay involved with the club.

“I coached the U15 and U18 teams in Westmanstown and seeing girls take up the game and grow and develop makes those rainy evenings worthwhile.”

Lorna identifies a major highlight in seeing Molly Scuffil McCabe sign an IRFU 7s contract last year.

“Molly began playing at the club when she was 15. Seeing a girl you coached wear the national jersey is an incredible honour.”

Last year Lorna moved up to coach the women’s team in Westmanstown.

This was the team I had played for up to just four years ago. It was a daunting prospect but the women appreciated that I had played the game and I loved being back as part of the squad.”

If you want a role in your club that is both challenging and rewarding, working with girls/women to develop their love of the game and their skills to play it, then coaching could be just for you.

Most teams train for only a couple of hours per week and Leinster Rugby run a range of coaching courses regularly in your local area to ensure you have the skills to make your sessions effective and enjoyable.

For more information on how you can get involved in coaching please contact Jennie Bagnall at jennie.bagnall@leinsterrugby.ie.

You can find details of the full list of coaching courses that are planned throughout the Province by visiting leinsterrugby.ie/coachingcourses.