Following a four-year absence, Cork native Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird is delighted to be back in the mix for Ireland ahead of their Women's Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Having previously spent time in a pre-tournament training squad for the home-based Rugby World Cup in 2017, Nic a Bhaird subsequently made her international 15s debut in the 2019 Championship. Before picking up four caps across that edition of the Six Nations, the Ballincollig woman had been part of the IRFU’s Sevens programme.
She subsequently returned to the latter code and while she eventually took a complete break from all forms of rugby, it didn’t take long for Nic a Bhaird to rediscover her love for the game.
Impressive form for Old Belvedere and Munster captured the attention of Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams, who named Nic a Bhaird in his 32-strong selection for this year’s Six Nations.
“It's great to be back. It's something you always miss when you're not in. I thought it might be off the cards for a while.
"I took a little time off after leaving the Sevens programme, but just missed it so much that I ended up back with Munster and Belvo for the club season,” Nic a Bhaird explained at a press conference in the IRFU’s High Performance Centre earlier today.
“I found a love for it again and I'm delighted that's showing on the pitch as well. I had a few things in my life I left behind and had to sort out, but the opportunity to come back into 15s has been unbelievable. There's a really good buzz in the group and I've been living for that really.”
Throughout last year’s Six Nations campaign - his first as head coach - McWilliams consistently stressed that performances rather than results were his number one priority.
While he found a number of positives in their opening round defeat to Wales at the RDS, he expressed a level of disappointment with his side’s overall display in a dramatic victory over Scotland at the end of the tournament.
Nic a Bhaird has a similar mindset on her return to the fold and is hopeful that a strong series of performances can drive them towards the results they crave.
Though she wasn’t part of the travelling party, she believes last year’s two-test summer tour of Japan was crucial towards the development of what remains a young and relatively inexperienced squad of players.
“I think performances for us [are key]. The Japan campaign was massive as well. People learnt so much from that experience. Just even in terms of how to prepare for an international. All those little things,” Nic a Bhaird added.
“Having the experience and the time to work on those skills off of the pitch. They’re all huge factors in the success of a campaign, but they all build to how you perform on the pitch.
"When we get our mindset right and we get our systems right, then we can express ourselves off the back of a really good foundation.”