Ireland’s Ciarán Frawley an emerging talent and team player keen to be involved

‘I probably have the ability to jump into other positions and do a job there. So, for me, it is understanding that and then knowing that it will get me into the big games’

Whenever Ciarán Frawley’s name is mentioned, it is often accompanied by the addition of Skerries. His upbringing in the coastal town of north county Dublin and development in the local club have a certain novelty value. Or, put another way, the appendage of St Michael’s or Blackrock with players in the Leinster and Ireland squads is absent.

“There are too many of them,” Frawley agrees with a wry grin, but he is proud of his roots and while not as fertile as those two production lines, as he is acutely aware, Skerries is not without its rugby role models.

“There are a few big names that came from Skerries. You look at the Billy Mulcahys,” says Frawley, about Dr Billy Mulcahy and his son (who played for Ireland A) and grandson (a stalwart of Connacht in the 90s when winning 57 caps for the province) of the same name.

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“Dr Bill (Mulcahy) would have played for the Lions,” adds Frawley of the two-time Lions’ tourist, who played a starring role in the Lions’ 9-6 win over the All Blacks in 1959 — still the only Lions win in Eden Park in 11 attempts.


“You have Billy Mulcahy playing for Connacht and Ireland 7s and Chris Keane as well,” he adds about the former scrumhalf, who played for Connacht and Leinster. “The list goes on and it’s just great to add to that list. I suppose there are not many from Skerries, and there is a bit of an age gap between each of these guys, so it’s brilliant to add to that and keep the history going in the town and in the club.”

Last Saturday, when scoring his first Test try on his full international debut in the 31-7 win over Wales, was the fulfilment of a childhood dream.

“I think once I started playing I dreamed of scoring a try for Ireland. I was about seven years old when I started playing. I always loved soccer. My grandad was mad into soccer, he would have played at a high enough level in England when he was younger, and he was mad to get me supporting Leeds, but I always went for United,” says Frawley, presumably meaning Manchester.

“I could be completely wrong but he tells me he played a little bit with the Aston Villa academy back in the day. Justin Maguire,” Frawley adds of his grandfather.

“He was massive but my mam and my dad both got me into rugby because we had family friends who were playing it in the club. I loved it from the get-go and I played a bit of Gaelic football on the side.”

When he took a good line on to Jamison Gibson-Park’s pass after Bundee Aki and Jack Conan had softened up the Welsh defence to score untouched at the Lansdowne Road end of the ground, the reality was every bit as good as he could have dreamed.

“I knew my family and friends were down that end as well, so I knew they’d be buzzing. I obviously couldn’t see them in the crowd, everyone was up on their feet, but it was a very special moment,” says Frawley after crowning what was a very special day.

“Getting the first start is unbelievable and the video of my Grandad is circulating. He was home that morning from San Francisco, so he had a bit of jet lag and the occasion got the better of him! It was brilliant to watch it back. Yeah, a brilliant day I’ll never forget.”

By his own admission, Frawley is “quite chilled”, so whatever nerves he has at the beginning of a match week have usually evaporated come the day itself.

“At the start of the week, there’s nerves there but you come through a lot of the reps and it felt like another game to me. It’s funny, when you’re on the pitch sometimes all the fear and anxiety goes. It’s more so off the pitch that you might get in on yourself or whatever, but as it comes to the end of the week I was in a good place and I was happy with how I went.”

Technically, as he was born in Sydney before his family moved back to Ireland when he was three, Frawley qualified to play for the Wallabies but it was never something that was formally explored or the 26-year-old ever considered.

“I don’t want to move to the other side of the world when I felt I had the potential to play for Ireland, which is what I actually wanted to do.”

Indeed, but for injuries he’d probably have made his debut in November 2022 rather than against Italy last August. Frawley has been in Irish squads whenever fit since 2021, as in the New Zealand Tour (when he played at 10 in both games against the Maori All Blacks) and the Emerging Ireland tour, so like Joe McCarthy, Jack Crowley and Calvin Nash, was well versed in the squad’s methods and style.

It’s also a measure of the strength in depth within Leinster especially since it has taken Frawley until now to break into the Irish team. As an outhalf, he helped Skerries to win an All-Ireland under-17 club title in 2017, broke into the Leinster Youths system and was an ever-present at inside centre for the Irish under-20s in 2017 before joining the Leinster Academy in the 2017-18 season.

The jury is still out as to Frawley’s best position. In his first three seasons, if not a replacement, he returned to being a 10, and for the next two campaigns he was more often at inside centre. But in the last two seasons, Frawley made his first eight starts at fullback. Of his other 71 caps for Leinster, a dozen have been at outhalf, 14 have been at inside centre, with one at outside centre, and the remaining 34 on the bench.

But if Frawley’s versatility has been something of a double-edged sword over the years, in this Six Nations it has been a plus, first earning him the 23 jersey when Andy Farrell opted for a 6-2 split against France and then a starting role in place of the injured Hugo Keenan last week.

With his physicality, superb skill set and varied kicking game the more involved Frawley became in the second half against Wales as a second playmaker, the more fluid Ireland became, and after Bundee Aki’s finish was wrongly ruled out for a supposed knock-on against Robbie Henshaw, this led to tries by Frawley and Tadhg Beirne.

“I just want to play,” says Frawley, perhaps becoming weary of this debate himself. “That’s the main thing. I want to play in big games. I’ve kind of understood now at this stage … The way I see it is I think like a 10, I feel I play like a 10 but I probably have the ability to jump into other positions and do a job there. So, for me, it is understanding that and then knowing that it will get me into the big games. That’s what I take the satisfaction from.”

It remains to be seen whether Keenan is fit to face England in Twickenham, and if any player in this Irish team has enough credit in the bank, then it is assuredly the previously indestructible and uber-reliable fullback. But at the very least, Frawley remains the most versatile fit for that 23 jersey if Farrell reverts to a 6-2 split, which the form of Ryan Baird consistently demands.

“For sure, the way the modern game is going having versatile players always works when it comes to a 6-2 split or you saw with South Africa a 7-1. So, you always want to push to start and I’ll always train to be starting but when it comes to a tight call on the bench, you’ll take that because you always want to be involved.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times