Laura Guest has almost travelled full circle in her rugby career. She started off as an out-half and though unlikely to don the play-maker’s jersey ever again, is now back where likes to be, in the thick of the action.
The 26-year-old from Clonakilty was thrown in at the deep end when her international career began eight years ago. Not just because of her youth, but for the fact she was making her debut as prop, having never played the position before.
She made a good fist of it but slowly lost her love for the game. The passion has been reignited in the past couple of years though, thanks to relocations to the engine room of the scrum, and most recently the back-row.
Tonight, Guest will line out at blindside flanker for Ireland’s opening RBS 6 Nations clash with Wales at Ashbourne (7.30).
“I first joined the squad in 2004” recalls Guest, who began her career with Clonakilty but is now playing with Highfield in Cork, having arrived there via Limerick clubs UL Bohs and Shannon.
“Since then I’ve gone through a period of time when I didn’t play at all through college and personal choice. I’ve gone through positional changes and I’m kind of having a bit of a renaissance in the last couple of years. I’m really enjoying my rugby again.
“My strengths would always have been in my ball-carrying so I get the opportunity to do more of it rather than using all of my energy in the set-piece.”
A teacher and rugby coach at Midleton College in East Cork, Guest has seen a lot of changes since first sauntering into an international training camp.
They are all still amateur athletes but the structure and preparation is now professional, and every last benefit of last weekend in Irish rugby’s regular Johnstown House base in Enfield is eked out.
“We’ve had our nutritionist into us, and we have a great strength and conditioning coach in Ross O’Callaghan. We’re all in sub-sections with our provinces in gyms, supervised by conditioning coaches.
“A lot of our weekend now is taken up with video analysis, watching clips of ourselves in training, doing our individual skills. We’re trying to learn all the time.”
Guest hopes this will be a season to remember. “As a squad we’d be targeting our home games. We would be fairly confident we have it in us to get the performance and result against Wales, Italy and Scotland. We owe the French a beating in France.”
Ireland: A Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), N Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), N Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), G Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), A Miller (Portlaoise/Highfield/Connacht), L Cantwell (Exile), A Davis (Blackrock/Leinster), F Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster, captain), G Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), A Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), M Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), S Spence (Exile), L Guest (Highfield/Munster), C Molloy (Bristol/Exile), J Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: P Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), R O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), S Fleming (Tralee/Munster), H O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), L Muldoon (Exile/UWIC/Ulster), N Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), AN Other.
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