Women's Six Nations: Irish captain Briggs keen to attract GAA players

Ireland captain Niamh Briggs
Niamh Briggs helped Ireland stun New Zealand at last year's Women's World Cup

New Ireland captain Niamh Briggs says she is keen to see more gaelic footballers follow her example by making the switch to women's rugby.

The 30-year-old full-back is preparing to captain the Irish in this year's Women's Six Nations Championship.

"I played gaelic football for Waterford for many years, and also camogie, which I think helped me in the transition to playing rugby," said Briggs.

"The fact that I played GAA first definitely helped me a lot."

The county Waterford native added: "I was catapulted into the Munster and Ireland set-up fairly quickly and it was very much a rollercoaster for me, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

However, the Ireland international, capped 45 times, warns that rugby is a much more physical sport than gaelic football and may not be to everyone's liking.

"There is a lot more contact - every match you play is a physical battle and some people don't want that.

"There are other girls who are incredible athletes, play GAA, have good ball skills and are incredibly quick - they would absolutely thrive in a rugby environment and it's probably something we should tap into a little bit more."

Briggs was part of the Ireland squad which won the Grand Slam in 2013 and then played a pivotal role in the World Cup campaign last summer, when they shocked defending champions New Zealand before losing to eventual winners England in the semi-finals.

Ireland's Women's Six Nations fixtures
DateOpponentVenue
Friday, 6 FebruaryItalyStadio Mario Lodigiani
Friday, 13 FebruaryFranceMilltown House, Ashbourne RFC
Friday, 27 FebruaryEnglandMilltown House, Ashbourne RFC
Sunday, 15 MarchWalesSt Helen's
Sunday, 22 MarchScotlandBroadwood Stadium

"Women's rugby is on the rise and the objective of getting more young players playing the game is definitely something that is on the Irish Rugby Football Union's (IRFU) agenda.

"It's something that has got to happen for us to compete at a high level as we need to have more strength in depth in the squad.

"Young kids are playing the game now but we won't see the benefit of that for another few years."

Briggs, who made her debut against Italy in 2008, was named as skipper following the retirement of previous captain Fiona Coghlan.

"It's a massive thing for me to be Ireland captain - I was driving home when I received the phone call and I nearly crashed my car, I wasn't expecting it at all but it's an absolute honour.

"We have a good base of really strong leaders in the squad and that is needed because we have lost five or six senior girls who have been excellent leaders.

"We want everyone to stand up and take responsibility. We train incredibly hard and have a number of new girls who have fitted in really well under new head coach Tom Tierney.

"The Six Nations campaign will be a test of our character but we'll relish that and we're looking forward to getting started against Italy and doing something we really love."

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