Lauren Delany making up for lost time in this year’s Six Nations

‘It has been a long journey back from multiple injuries‘

Brittany Hogan and Lauren Delany ahead of Ireland’s final Six Nations match against Scotland. Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

Following over 16 months away from the international game, Ireland women’s rugby star Lauren Delany has found herself making up for lost time in this year’s Six Nations Championship.

A debutant under Adam Griggs against the USA in November 2018, Delany went on to become a regular during the New Zealander’s tenure and was selected at fullback for his final game at the helm three years later – a 15-12 triumph over Japan at the RDS.

Despite being included by Griggs’s successor Greg McWilliams in squads for the 2022 Six Nations and the subsequent two-test summer tour of Japan, injury ultimately meant she had to wait until the current campaign to add to her 18 senior caps. She eventually returned off the bench in a second round defeat to France at Musgrave Park on April 1st, however, before back-to-back starts followed against Italy and England.

“It has been a long journey back from multiple injuries over 2022 and then in Japan, being injured out there as well. A tough old time, definitely, but couldn’t be happier to be back in and to get back into that starting shirt as well has been a great experience,” Delany explained at a press conference on Tuesday.

Ireland's Lauren Delany in action against Italy. Photograph: Luca Sighinolfi/Inpho

While Delany isn’t one of the contracted players within the Ireland squad, she is currently employed in the professional game. Having previously worked for rugby league outfit Leeds Rhinos in a similar role, the Dubliner switched to the union code with Sale Sharks last September to work as a performance nutritionist with their men’s first team and academy.

Delany was already familiar with the Greater Manchester outfit as she has been lining out for the Sale women’s side in the Premier 15s since 2020. In addition to helping the male players to perform at their optimum level, she is learning what she can from them in order to constantly improve her own game.

“Keeping all my life into one place! I’m 24/7 in the building as well as doing my PhD [in rugby nutrition], which has been brilliant. For me, to be back working in rugby union, to talk to the lads day in, day out. I talk to the back-three all the time, get their perspective on their game.

“I watch all their games back and I’m learning so much from them and working with the lads, as well as the women. It’s great to be fully ingrained in the club.”

Although Delany is embracing being back in the saddle, it has been a difficult 2023 Six Nations to date for Ireland. Last Sunday’s 48-0 reversal to England in Cork was their fourth successive loss of the campaign and it leaves them at the foot of the Championship table heading into Saturday’s final round showdown with Scotland in Edinburgh.

Given Scotland are five points ahead of them in the current standings – and Italy are four clear with a vastly superior score difference – the likelihood is that Ireland will need a bonus point win to avoid a wooden spoon finish in the Six Nations for the first time in 19 years. They have recorded just two tries to date in 2023, but Delany believes the visitors will be more than capable of establishing attacking momentum in their latest clash with the Scots.

“I think for us, it’s just being that little bit more clinical with the ball. Maybe keeping the possession a bit more, not kicking it away so that we can build phases and maybe isolate a few players more on the edge. I think we’re looking pretty confident going into the weekend,” Delany added.