Claire McLaughlin (30) is a rugby player and doctor who won her first international cap at the 2016 Women’s Six Nations. She is currently recovering from an injury, works in the emergency room at Ulster Hospital and is also a BBC expert on the Women’s Six Nations. Born in Bushmills, Co. Antrim, she lives in Belfast with her husband Jonny.
I was a little tomboy. I loved playing in the garden with my brothers and helping my father on the farm.
Choose three words to describe yourself.
I would say: hardworking, friendly and competitive.
How do you balance your rugby with your medical education?
You don’t get paid for women’s rugby, so you need to balance your career with your passion. I was originally drafted into the Ireland squad the same year I completed my medical studies. I balanced the revision alongside the Six Nations.
Did you pay a price for this?
I postponed my final exams because I found out I had an underlying heart condition. I was starting to get palpitations caused by the stress of the repetition, the training, possibly my first cap in the Six Nations and all the coffee I was drinking. I had surgery to fix my heart problem and three weeks later I was playing rugby. I got my first cap during this Six Nations.
How does a doctor deal with an injury?
I injured my right ankle during training in May 2019. It was a crazy accident and I ended up having surgery. After four weeks I went back to work. As a doctor, I felt I had to work, but it was too early. It prolonged recovery and I had to have a second operation.
Why did you choose the emergency room?
It’s stressful and hectic, but I enjoy it. The team is great. There are so many different patients – elderly, children and middle-aged.
What drives you?
The desire to be the best I can be. In rugby I’ve played with Ulster and Ireland and I’ve played in the World Cup. I want to do this again.
Best advice you give?
Work your 100 percent in everything you do.
Do you think Irish women’s rugby will ever turn professional?
It has to be, especially when you see the other teams getting professional. Look at Wales in the Six Nations. They’ve landed a few professional deals in the last few months and are already making great strides.
Do you like working as an expert?
Yes, but it was quite a steep learning curve. You need to do quite a bit of research to make sure you know all the players, the systems they are trying to implement and how they play their game. Also, live TV is scary because you could say anything.
You play the piano – does it help you relax?
I started when I was six. I use it as my break from the stress of college, work or even rugby. I’m so glad I have it. I can sit down and play for two hours when I have time.
Your faith matters too…
I am a christian. My faith has been very important to me in recent years. When I played rugby I wore a strap around my wrist and put AO1 on it – Audience of One. I would say prayers before I go on the pitch but I would never pray that we would win. Instead, I would pray for everyone to get out safely.
You got married last year. Has marriage changed you?
Marriage has softened me. I used to be a bit uptight and would have stressed about things but my husband tells me to be careful. He’s very supportive.
How do you rate Ireland’s chances for the next two games?
It’s going to be a tough game against England today. But I think we should have good chances against Scotland because they were underperforming.
Women’s Six Nations Rugby England v Ireland today 12pm. Ireland v Scotland April 30 at 8pm womens.sixnationsrugby.com
https://www.independent.ie/life/upfront-irish-rugby-star-claire-mclaughlin-on-punditry-prayer-and-playing-piano-41577060.html First of all: Irish rugby star Claire McLaughlin on expert knowledge, prayer and playing the piano