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Ireland starlet Katie Corrigan: 'I have really tried to back myself and play with confidence'

By Gary Heatly
Cork , Ireland - 13 April 2024; Katie Corrigan of Ireland runs in to score her side's fourth try during the Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Wales at Virgin Media Park in Cork. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

This time last year Katie Corrigan had just played for Ireland in the under-18 Six Nations Festival at Wellington School – now she is set to play in front of a massive crowd of 45,000 plus at Twickenham this Saturday as her rapid rise hits new heights.

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The 18-year-old winger, who started playing at the Tullow club in County Carlow around six years ago, has been well-known in Irish rugby circles for quite a while as an exciting young talent.

And in the last few months, her stock has grown and grown week on week, first as the Old Belvedere and Leinster speedster helped the Wolfhounds win the Celtic Challenge title and then, more recently, as she has earned her first three full international caps.

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Ireland head coach Scott Bemand backed her to start in week one of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations in Le Mans away to France on her debut and, since then, she has scored tries in the home loss to Italy in Dublin and the very important home bonus point win over Wales in Cork last weekend.

“It has certainly been a busy few months,” she said matter-of-factly.

“I was often playing 13 before I went to play for the Wolfhounds in the Celtic Challenge, so not only have I been stepping up the levels to play recently, but I have also been adapting to a new regular position on the wing.

“It has been a lot of learning, but the Celtic Challenge was a great place for me to do that learning first of all and I think playing regular games in that competition against Welsh and Scottish teams really helped me to make the next step up when I was called into the Irish squad ahead of this Six Nations tournament.

“I thought this whole experience might have been overwhelming, but that Celtic Challenge stint was a great staging post and made me feel more confident ahead of the Six Nations.

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“Communication is a massive thing as a winger, you have to be talking all the time out there on the pitch and I have been working on that, but I have also been working on my confidence.

“If you have any self-doubt at the top level then I think you will struggle to get anywhere, so although it has been daunting, over my first three caps I have really just tried to back myself and play with confidence.

“I have been making mistakes at training, but the squad are right behind me and are backing me and it has made me feel positive. It has also made me want to play my natural game and really try to bring a spark to matches when I can.”

Ireland will arrive at Twickenham at the weekend for their round four Six Nations clash as massive underdogs with England hunting another title and another Grand Slam.

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But the visitors will have a spring in their step after the 36-5 triumph over Wales last weekend at Virgin Media Park – their first victory in the competition since round five in 2022 – and they are still battling it out for third place with two games to go.

“I feel like we were ‘on it’ right from the start of the day and in the warm-up everything just felt calm and controlled,” Corrigan said about the victory over Wales.

“Everyone was relaxed, there was nothing hectic about things and we took those good vibes out onto the pitch and managed to execute the game plan that we wanted. It felt unreal to win for the first time in an Irish shirt.”

Ireland were 21-0 up at half-time and got the second period off to the perfect start when Corrigan charged down a kick and then scored the bonus point fourth try within 90 seconds of the restart to really knock the stuffing out of Wales.

“We work on our kick chase and our kick sprint quite a lot in training and, in this situation, it was good to be able to block down a clearance kick and then get the bounce so that I could pick up the ball and score under the posts,” Corrigan continued.

“I had scored my first international try in the defeat to Italy, but this was a totally different feeling because it came as part of a win.

“We had said at half-time that we wanted to start the second half as if it was 0-0 and not to get ahead of ourselves and I thought we did that. To score the team’s fourth try just after the break set things up nicely.

“Playing in France was an experience in week one, but both the home grounds have been really good and it has been so good to have family and friends there watching us over the last two outings.

“The crowd at Virgin Media Park against Wales were closer to the pitch than the crowd at the RDS versus Italy and that made the noise even louder and gave me a real buzz. Wherever we are the fans are always cheering us on and it means so much to us all.”

There will no doubt be a fair few Irish in the crowd at Twickenham this weekend, but Corrigan will probably have to pinch herself when she runs out of the tunnel at the home of English rugby.

“I would never have believed you if you’d told me a few months ago that I’d potentially be getting a chance to play at Twickenham, no way,” Corrigan said with a smile.

“Before I went to France for the Six Nations opener and played in front of 15,000 or so there I had never really even played in front of 2,000 so to think that there will be over 45,000 there this weekend is kind of mind-blowing really.

“Playing for Ireland so far has been a bit like a dream for me and now playing at a stadium like this seems like another dream.

“It’ll probably take me a few minutes to get used to the surroundings, but then I’ll just try and embrace it and I think the rest of the squad will too.

“The way we felt after the Italy loss drove us on to get better and beat Wales and we don’t want that Italian feeling again any time soon.

“The team is coming together really well and we’ll go out at the weekend and give it everything we have as we continue to build.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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