Fleming over fears and ready for biggest stage

Ireland women's rugby squad are put through their paces at French rugby's training HQ in Marcoussis, southern Paris. Ireland open their World Cup campaign against the USA on Friday.

In Currow they boast about Irish international players like Moss Keane, Mick Galwey and the Doyle brothers, Mick and Tom, but Siobhán Fleming is the only local legend to have won a Grand Slam.

Her Six Nations medal proudly hangs in her Kerry home, where sport was always in the blood — her mother a second cousin to Moss Keane, while her uncle Mick Fleming starred in midfield for the Kerry footballers.

Fleming is relatively new to the Irish set-up, having received the call-up four years ago, but a lack of confidence saw her last just as many weeks in that initial spell.

“It was a tough transition and I’m an awful home bird,” revealed the special needs assistant, who ensured Skype was set up in her family home ahead of her departure to Paris at the weekend ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

“It was too much, too quick, for me at the time, and I had no intention of going back,” said Fleming, who, in her first year playing provincial rugby was named Munster Player of the Year.

And so the call came to try out for Ireland.

It wasn’t for her initially, but thankfully for present day coach Philip Doyle, Fleming had a change of heart.

“After quitting and saying ‘no thanks, it’s not for me’, I spent the following year diving and ducking Irish team conversations, but when it came around to next season I felt it was unfinished business and I had to go back for my own peace of mind. Something inside was telling me I had to do this,” said the 31-year-old.

“To this day I don’t know why I really pulled out the first time round, but it was probably a lack of confidence. It was still a foreign sport to me at the time and to be playing it at such a high level with all these amazing athletes and big names and personalities was tough.

“I was taken out of my comfort zone and what you know and the people you know, which for me is a big issue. But I’m so grateful for having gone back because it’s probably changed me for the better now. It’s about facing your fears and taking the chance.

“Even now I still struggle and I’m wondering how I’ll cope in France, but it’s going to be the most amazing experience,” she added.

With USA on Friday in their opening game, prior to facing reigning world champions New Zealand a week today, Fleming is confident Ireland have what it takes to compete with the best and better the seventh place achieved last time.

“We have to aim for the top in France, but in saying that if all else fails even a top four finish would be fantastic.”


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