Monday, 2nd September 2019 @ 19:00
Harlequins Women and Ireland back row Anna Caplice on her excitement at joining the Club and her rugby journey to this point.
Having grown up in Limerick, in the west of Ireland, rugby was always going to be a prominent part of Caplice’s childhood, having supported her provincial side Munster Rugby from the age of 12. Despite being introduced to the game as atat a young age, it wasn’t until her late teens that she first had the opportunity to play and compete: “I remember I was 17, and I was at school and I overheard the Principle announcing on the intercom that there was girls rugby training happening that evening at 7seven o’clock at Mallow RFC. That was the moment my life changed forever.
“My family supported Munster and we regularly went to watch the matches together at Thomond Park. My brother also played so I used to go and watch him. I desperately wanted to get on the field but unfortunately there wasn’t any rugby for girls my age at the time and I had to wait until I was older.”
After leaving school, Caplice went on to university and was keen to continue playing, even when spending extended periods in other countries: “I studied Applied Languages (Spanish, German and Japanese) at the University of Limerick and spent a lot of time living abroad. When overseas, I played for a team in Vienna and then went on to represent Austria. I also played for a men’s team when I was living in Argentina.
“The network that the game provides you is amazing, in terms of the people that you meet; your team mates on the field (who become your friends for life); the coaches that inspire you and guide you, who put so much faith in you and also the extended family that you gain all over the world.”
Having been successful at club and university level, Caplice turned her attention to the international scene, firstly in the seven-player code: “I was first capped as part of the Ireland Sevens programme at the Dubai World Series event in 2015. It was an amazing experience and an incredible taste of international rugby. I then got my first XV’s cap in 2016 against Canada in the Autumn Series.
“The experience of representing your country on the field seems to come and go very quickly and just leaves you wanting more. It’s not all rosy either – it’s incredibly tough – but that’s what makes it so rewarding. It’s about the fight you have to show to get there and how much people are willing to go through to succeed.
“Playing at a home World Cup in 2015 was a tough experience given our results, but it’s something that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. Regardless of outcome, any time you get to wear the jersey is incredible and its immensely challenging to keep a hold of it in the face of competition from other players.”
Despite only joining Harlequins this summer from famous rivals Richmond FC, Caplice has historical experience of The Stoop and the Twickenham area, having studied for her Secondary PGCE at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, a few years previous: “My favourite memory of being at The Stoop was going to see England Legends play Ireland Legend in 2016. The match the epitome ofepitomised the network that the sport gives you, with these old friends and competitors still going head-to-head years after they have retired. Hopefully, in the far future, I’d like to do something similar myself!
“The Club has real x-factor from a women’s perspective in terms of how much it’s driving the standards in our game, from the quality of the coaching staff to calibre of players that are in the squad. With the backing of the organisation, they are always looking to go one better and, at the end of the day, you can have all the facilities in the world but if you haven’t got the right people, with the right mindset, you won’t progress.”
“My personal goals for the next year are pretty simple: I want to be known as one of the most successful Harlequins players of the 2019/20 season. There is so much competition here, especially in the back row, so it’s going to be a huge feat even to be selected. It’s such an incredible team so to play a significant role in its success would be an immense achievement.”
In an exciting twist of fate, if selected, Caplice will face her old side in Quins’ season opener on Saturday 21st September, but the experienced loose forward insists that it will only be a positive experience: “Everyone at Richmond has been so supportive. I have a lot of great friends there, both players and coaches, all of whom have fostered my desire to get better, and I am excited to see them.
“For me, I am just excited to play for Harlequins and enjoy the experience, no matter the opposition.”