Claire relishing Inter-Pro challenge

RUGBY: Claire Mclaughlin in action for Ulster. inbm35-14s
RUGBY: Claire Mclaughlin in action for Ulster. inbm35-14s

Bushmills lass Claire McLaughlin has been putting in the hard yards over the past few months as the Queen’s student prepares for the start of the new rugby season, reports GILLIAN ANDERSON.

Claire, a former Ballymoney Ladies player who now features at Centre for Queen’s, is heading in to her fifth season for Ulster with the Inter-Provincials looming large.

“The Inter-Pros start at the beginning of September and we’ve been in pre-season training since the start of July. The whole coaching set up is different this season. They’ve brought in a new Manager, new Head Coach, new Strength and Conditioning coach and it really has made a considerable difference. Everything is much more professional. They’re really trying to push the professional approach with us in every aspect of the game. Even coming to training, if you aren’t on the pitch at a designated time then there are punishments.”

Few could have missed the recent hype when the Irish girls got to the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup raising the profile of the women’s game even more and Claire is hoping it won’t be too long before we get to see her in the green shirt of Ireland.

“There’s no doubt the success of the Irish team has helped a lot with regards women’s rugby being taken more seriously. I’m on the periphery at the moment but I’m hoping to break through really soon. I’ve been working hard on my weaknesses so I’m hoping in the next season to get on to the training squad. As well as club and Ulster squad training I’ve been doing my own training at Core Gym in Coleraine. It’s great to have that facility because I can do a lot more strength work and it makes all the difference.

“My main focus at the moment is on the Inter-pros. We want to win as many matches as possible so I’m going to keep training hard over the next few weeks in the run up to the first match against Munster which is at home on 6th September at the Kingspan Stadium (Ravenhill).”

Ulster Ladies Fixtures

Ulster v Munster

Saturday 6th September, 3.00pm, Kingspan Stadium

Connacht v Ulster

Saturday 13th September, 2.00pm, Sportsground

Leinster v Ulster

Saturday 20th September, 2.00pm, Ashbourne RFC