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24th Mar 2021

“I didn’t know the rules of the game” Lynne Cantwell on the importance of coaching in Irish rugby

Cantwell is the most capped player in Irish female rugby, but she also started somewhere.

Niamh Maher

Brought to you by Sport Ireland.

“I remember being terrible in lots of ways I didn’t know the rules of the game!”

It’s hard to think of elite athletes starting off. Fumbling around, feeling unsure and insecure seems like a daft notion for the best of the best, but even they have to start somewhere! Lynne Cantwell currently holds the title of being Ireland’s most capped female rugby player, she’s also recently been announced as South Africa’s new high-performance manager for the women’s game. The Springboks have promised to ramp up their dedication to the women’s team and Cantwell’s appointment is a clear signal of their intentions. 

Also sitting as the Chair of Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport Committee, we caught up with Lynne recently to talk about her new gig in South Africa, the importance of leadership and governance for women in sport, and coming to the game later in life.

We also threw in the possibility of CJ Stander’s daughter being recruited for the Springboks, because we had to ask!

Check out the interview in full below:

When talking to an Irish sporting legend it’s always good to go back, when we’re discussing pathways of entry into sport it’s always important to know where elite athletes began, and unsurprisingly a lot of female athletes come to find their sport later in life as Lynne explained:

“I started my career through athletics… I was fast and I used to win races in our sports days and my mam and dad recognised that and they brought me into Fingallians Athletics Club in Swords, where I stayed for kind of ten, eleven, twelve years until I went to university. It was only in university in Limerick that I took up rugby and those ten years were significant from an athletics point of view in that I had such a wonderful experience as a kid, as a teenager, in a sport that allowed me to refine and understand and grow strong and fast as an athlete. This enabled me to choose any sport which helped me to to choose any sport.”

Lynne didn’t pick up a rugby ball at the age of two and magic was made, like many before her, she had an older brother and was lambasted by deflated basketballs while defending a goal. It was a simple way in which she learned to love playing sport and now it’s about ensuring that young girls have positive entry points and clear pathways:

“I think we need to recognise that the emergence of women in sport is only an emerging topic in the last ten to fifteen years so a lot of people are coming to some sports later and as a result that impression and that environment that a sport creates to welcome women, anybody new into it, and I say women but we’re talking about people with disabilities, different ethnic minorities, different religions, that’s the realities of our society now so what do our sports and what do all of our sectors do to welcome in and create an inclusive environment for all?”

Lynne went on to tell us about starting rugby for the first time in UL and how she didn’t have a clue,”I remember being terrible in lots of ways I didn’t know the rules of the game!”

She put it down to the skill of her coaches for refining her already fantastic sporting ability and guiding her through the early stages of her career.

You can check out more of our interview with Lynne below and don’t forget to subscribe to the full series here.

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