Eve Higgins mixing criminology with Ireland’s World Cup quest

The 22-year-old has spent her evenings in Parma catching up on work for her masters

Ireland’s Eve Higgins is tackled by Lucia Gai of Italy during their World Cup qualifier. Photo: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Ireland’s Eve Higgins is tackled by Lucia Gai of Italy during their World Cup qualifier. Photo: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

 

Since the days she was a student at Coláiste Cois Lifé in Lucan, Eve Higgins has become accustomed to her sporting life and education sometimes getting in the way of each other. This month has been no different, the 22-year-old on international duty with the Irish rugby team in Parma when she should be starting her Masters in Criminology & Criminal Justice in UCD.

“I’ve just been flat out doing my reading when I’ve had time off, like during the recovery day on Monday, just focussing on what I can catch up on when I’m not at home,” she says. “Enjoying it.”

Why criminology?

“I don’t know, since I was a teenager it’s what I always wanted to do. I was always in to crime fiction, crime TV, crime movies, the reason I went to college in the first place for my undergrad was to do a post-grad in criminology. I can’t really explain it, it’s just an interest I’ve always had.”

Favourite crime novelist?

“I was obsessed with Patricia Cornwell for a while, the Kay Scarpetta series, I’ve got about 12 of the books.”

Favourite TV detective?

“Well, my favourite movie is Silence of the Lambs, I know it’s not TV. That’s what sticks out, my love for that movie.”

She laughs at the criminology Q&A session which comes after her reflections on Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign thus far and a look ahead to Saturday’s critical meeting with Scotland.

Having missed out on a place in the team that produced a shocker of a performance in the defeat by Spain in their opening game, Higgins was one of four changes made by Adam Griggs for last Sunday’s meeting with Italy, a 15-7 victory reviving their hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

The performance against Italy was a whole lot better than the week before, but Higgins admits that there’s plenty of room for improvement yet. “We’ve created a lot of chances, but just haven’t executed them,” she says. “We were still frustrated with ourselves in that Italy game because we left a few tries out there. We’re just not pulling the trigger and we know how devastating our backline can be, from set-pieces and open play. We just want to take more of our chances and put scores on the board. We still want to right some wrongs, even from the Italy game.”

Familiar opponents

Scotland should, of course, be familiar opponents, but, due to the Six Nations being disrupted by Covid, they haven’t played Ireland since February of last year. Higgins has never met them in a 15s match, only making her debut in that code back in April, having won 20 caps by then for the Sevens.

“It’s a huge gap, alright, we’ll take that in to our preparations, look at what they’ve done in the last few months,” says the Railway Union centre. “Because of that break we can’t really look that far in to the past, we’re very much in the present. But I have played against a few of their players, the majority of their backline play Sevens, so at least I have a certain feel for them. That’s the danger with any team you come up against, they can throw something new at you, but we’re just going to control what we can control so that we can answer anything that comes our way this weekend.”

Griggs was especially pleased with his team’s defensive work against Italy, Higgins playing no small part in that effort, although she says it’s an area of her game that still needs work.

“That’s the biggest difference between Sevens and the 15s: defence. Your whole attitude towards defence in the 15s is different, you’re not just trying to guide them out, you’re going to them. It took me a while to get in to it, but I’m trying to improve it every game. You can do so much in training but you can’t really recreate game-like scenarios. It was unfortunate that we just had the three Six Nations games this year, I just wanted it to keep going, just to get in to the swing of things.

“Our training session before the Italy game was heavily based on defence, so I just tried to show what I could bring to the team in that area. I was grateful I got the opportunity to be out there and I obviously wanted to make the most of it, so I was happy I was able to do some positives for the team.”

All eyes on the Scotland game, then, with all four teams in the group going in to their final fixtures level on five points. It could yet come down to head-to-head records, points difference, tries scored and conceded, or even a toss of a coin in none of those criteria separated the contenders, with the table-toppers automatically qualifying for the World Cup and the runners-up given another chance in a repechage tournament.

Higgins, need it be said, hopes it’ll be a case of mission accomplished on Saturday. “We know the prize at the end of the road, we know what’s at stake, it’s what we’ve been focussing on for the last 18 months.” If they seal their World Cup slot, they may well toast their success with a glass or two of Chianti. You’d guess, though, that they’ll pass on the liver and fava beans.

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