Niamh Briggs takes The Irish Times/Irish Sports Council Sportswoman Award for February

Having missed opening game against Scotland, the prolific fullback has been her usual self

Ireland’s Niamh Briggs: winner of the February award.

Ireland’s Niamh Briggs: winner of the February award.

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 01:00

The permutations are dizzying. ScrumQueens, the online home of women’s rugby, bravely dusted down their calculator after last weekend’s games and came up with the equation: for Ireland to retain their Six Nations title, they must beat France by more than 19 points on Friday while needing England to fail to beat Italy on Sunday by more than nine points, plus the margin by which Ireland beat France.

See? Dizzying.

Having never won in France before, the odds are distinctly against Philip Doyle’s team prevailing, but come what may, it’s been another impressive campaign from his team: a 59-0 trouncing of Scotland, a 14-6 defeat of old foes Wales, a 39-0 mauling of Italy, that 17-10 loss to England at Twickenham ending a winning streak that dated back to 2012.

Plenty of star turns along the way, but having missed the opening game against Scotland with a shoulder injury, the prolific fullback Niamh Briggs has been her usual self, following up on a spectacular 2013 when she was the team’s highest points scorer in the Six Nations, was named player of the campaign, won the Irish rugby writer’s Player of the Year award and was chosen as World Player of the Year by players and coaches polled by ScrumQueens.

She picked up a gong or two in her native Waterford as well, which meant as much.

Sporting all-rounder
The 29-year-old Limerick-based Garda, who plays her club rugby with UL Bohemians, was already a sporting all-rounder before she took up the game just four years ago, appearing in an All-Ireland Intermediate Gaelic football final for her county in 2010. That year’s women’s rugby World Cup caught her interest, though, and she’s never looked back.

Her two penalties in Milan last year sealed the Grand Slam for the team, but, remarkably enough, she has yet to watch a recording of the history-making game.

“No, it’s just because I have memories in my head that I don’t want to change,” she told The Irish Times before the start of the current campaign.

“I’m afraid if I watch it they will change. It wasn’t a good game of rugby, let’s be honest, the conditions were awful, but in my head it was the most amazing game of rugby ever.”

Briggs provided the paper with a diary of an average week in her life ahead of the campaign – talk of dizzying. Gym sessions at six in the morning, work, kicking practice, work, trips back and forth to Dublin, Cork and other locations for training, then work, gym, work, training, work, and so on. The commitment and sacrifices, for no monetary return, simply astounding.

Her nine points against Wales clinched the victory last month, five more against England, not to mention a try-saving tackle before injury forced her out of the game, and three conversions and two penalties against Italy: prolific, as ever – and that’s before even noting her all-round contribution to the Irish team, in defence and attack.