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05th Sep 2022

Linda Djougang: “The minute you wear that jersey, you wear it with pride”

We caught up with the Irish rugby player to chat Japan, leadership and the importance of being vulnerable.

Reflecting on the IRFU’s 2022 summer tour, Linda Djougang admits that she’s envious of her younger teammates who got their first cap in Japan.

“They’ll remember getting their first cap in Japan for the rest of their lives,” she tells Her. “Oh boy, I’m so jealous!”

Jealousy aside, the Irish rugby player shares that witnessing her teammates’ achievements is a privilege.

“I’m so super proud of them because they really wore that jersey with pride, and that’s all we ask for. The minute you wear that jersey, you wear it with pride and you give it everything, because boy, there is someone back home who is dying to get on that flight and take that from you.”

Supporting the less experienced members of the team was a priority for Linda, and the environment of the Japan tour proved to be conducive to doing exactly that.

“Environment is a massive thing and it’s something we cherish,” she says. “We’re working really hard to to build an environment where any player comes in and is able to use their talent, able to feel comfortable and able to really play with confidence and pride. That’s really what we’re looking for.”

Living in each other’s pocket, as Linda puts it, was crucial to getting everyone on the same wavelength.

“It’s really what the team needed. Being with each other 24/7 really helped. You have no place to hide and it was really just bonding us as players but also as friends. We could see it, even on the pitch. It just felt effortless because we knew each other inside and out. Everyone was just able to be friends, we were able to tackle each other, to talk about issues.

“Those little things, knowing each other inside and out is a massive thing on the pitch. Knowing each other’s personality, what triggers them, how they like to communicate, how they switch on. It was so beneficial.”

The tour also reminded Linda of how important it is to mind your mental health, and that’s a message she continues to spread through her new role as the ambassador for Tackle Your Feelings on their #ImTakingControl campaign. As a registered nurse herself, it’s a message Linda knows only too well.

“What I’ve learned from nursing is that I really need to look better at my mental health. With patients, you’re looking after them, you can’t really express your emotion, it’s like a burden. In rugby, it’s so important to let those walls down and be able to express your emotions. That’s how your peers get to know you, how you are as a person, and how you are on the pitch. They get to know you at a deep level, and that all comes from being vulnerable, being able to be open, and to pull down the walls on what you think is holding you back.”

She hammers home the importance of asking for help, both in sport and in life generally.

“People can think ‘I don’t want to ask for help because I don’t want to seem weak,’ but it’s actually a strength to say ‘OK, I need help.'”

Continuing to mind her mental health is just one of Linda’s goals for the future.

“I just want to continue to just be the best player I can be, and be in form. I just really want to push myself to be the best prop I can be and look after my mental health, my physical side, my health in general. And also just play. Just play rugby.”