Leah Lyons enjoying challenge at “amazing” new club

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Leah Lyons enjoying challenge at
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - AUGUST 22: Leah Lyons of Ireland is tackled during the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 match between Ireland and Australia at the Kingspan Stadium on August 22, 2017 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ireland International Leah Lyons made the bold move to Harlequins Ladies at the beginning of August, just around the corner from the start of the Tyrrells Premiership 15s Championship.

A move that she had been thinking about for a while, before it finally to come to fruition. An big opportunity, that she welcomes with open arms.

Last Word on Rugby interviewed the Cork born rugby player, to judge how her aspirations in rugby are impacting on her life, work and future goals in the Emerald Green of Ireland.

2018/19 Move to Harlequins Ladies

Lyons is settling in well with life at her new London-based club. Currently she’s still very much an amateur player and is training full time until Leah finds a job that suits her rugby lifestyle. However, she’s used the time wisely to prepare herself for a tough campaign ahead.

“I can honestly say management, coaches and players have made the move so easy for me,” she answered when asked how the move to Quins has gone so far. “Harlequins have been very helpful in getting me settled in.

“I’m very lucky being able to come into such an amazing club”.

Harlequins are an impressive club and regarded as one of the best in England. Reaching the Premiership 15s final last season, and having recruited a number of high quality players over the summer, including Leah Lyons and Scotland International, Jade Konkel.

Harlequins club have have high hopes for the season ahead

A side littered with talent, it’s easy to understand why Lyons made the move. Fellow Ireland international, Sene Naoupu and Ireland 7s International Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird had both experienced life at Harlequins.

Lyons herself has been massively impressed by the set-up, and has praised their inclusive nature. “They want to create a club where it is equal in the way that we train and prepare, and in terms of the coaching and advertising. It’s something that you don’t see very often in club set ups at home.

“If selected, being able to play four matches at The Stoop this year would also be a highlight. Two of those being double headers with the men’s [Premiership] team. They’re giving us the opportunity to play at the home grounds which gives people who support Harlequins, a chance to watch the quality of the women’s games”.

And Leah Lyons is playing in a time when women’s rugby has seen massive gains in popularity. Being on the same field, with the advantages in turf quality alone, will let all the women involved, demonstrate their skills base.

Leah Lyons – the Decision to Move

A Cork native, Lyons made the brave decision to leave the comfort of Munster Rugby and Highfield RFC, in an effort to develop a player. Having finished up her contract with Munster, there wasn’t going to be a better time for Lyons to move across the water. It was simply an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“My work contract at home with Munster rugby had finished up, and I felt I was in the right place and time to try something new and challenge myself with my rugby career. To make myself better as a player.

“I had been thinking about playing in England for a long time and see what it was like. I had heard great things about it from girls who had been over, and experienced it themselves”

It wasn’t an easy decision, given the Irish Women’s Inter-provincial Championship was just around the corner. However, Lyons could see the bigger picture and is hopeful that when she returns to the Irish setup, she “can bring back different ideas”. To help integrate to the Irish style of play.

Luckily, the Munster coaching staff were very supportive of the move, and even facilitated Lyons in attending a few training sessions (out of contract) before she headed over the Irish Sea, to London.

LWOR asked Lyons, what are her ambitions for the Season?

Lyons is five weeks into her preseason with Quins and is rearing to go. Last weekend, while her old team Munster beat Connacht in the Women’s Interprovincial Championship, Lyons and Quins had a training game ahead of the new 2018/19 season.

“Hopefully I can put out a good performance and put my hand up for team selection in the coming weeks. We are definitely looking to create an impact for the season and dominate our matches.

“Games are definitely going to be a challenge,” Lyons answered when quizzed over Harlequins ambitions. “I’m very optimistic that with the ability of the girls, we’ll do a good job”.

The Growth of Women’s Rugby

This summer saw the introduction of the ‘Give It A Try’ programme by Irish Rugby, an initiative to get more girls involved in the game. It’s been a huge success and something that Lyons has been hugely impressed with;

“I think it is great. It gives chances to girls who might not get the opportunity to play, or are a bit afraid to join a club.”

“Coaches make it fun and exciting for new girls involved. You can have little-to-no experience and it’s still easy for anyone to pick up a ball and play. It gives young players a taste of what it is like in a fun environment.

“I went to a few sessions when I was at home and you get to see girls from everywhere out playing with a rugby ball, smiling and running around. And best of all, having fun and making friends”. That social and active aspect of the game is where enthusiasm can develop into a lifetime love affair.

Lyons continued, that “many of the girls that attended will be joining clubs in the new season, which is a credit to the clubs involved and organisers. ‘Give It A Try’ is definitely a positive move forward for the game”.

Lyons excited prospect of young talent coming through the system

Growing the game in Ireland, is what is most pleasing for the International – both as a player, and a women. Five girls from the Munster U18 set-up last year [Andrea Stock, Orla Curtin, Sarah Garrett, Emily Lane and Enya Breen] are now on the senior Munster panel. With three of them named in the 23 for last weekends interprovincial game, it’s a sign of the progress being made in the development of women’s rugby.

“That’s what you want to see and that’s how you build depth. They’ll eventually become the foundation in a few years time. With them, they have also had had the years to develop skills in the underage set up in their clubs and provinces.

“Now you have 15-18 year old girls that have all the skills coming through. They can learn and listen from the best. The best thing is, it’s not necessary to focus on the basic skills because they already have them, which is great to see.”

A talented player herself, the prop forward is looking to develop her game. Being involved in the English competition, will ask questions of Leah Lyons. But admirers of hers, know that the 23 year old has many seasons to reach her potential with Ireland, and now with the Harlequins women.

First up for Lyons and Harlequins Women, is Gloucester-Harpbury on August 8th.

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Last Word on Rugby would like to thank Leah Lyons and Harlequin Women/Irish Rugby, for the opportunity to interview this delightful young women. The staff and writer wish her all the best in Leah’s rugby career.

 

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