Ulster centre Claire McLaughlin could be in line to make a first start for Ireland in the Rugby Women’s World Cup tomorrow in Belfast.
Ireland go into their final game against Wales at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 2pm) needing to win and secure seventh place which also guarantees automatic qualification for the 2021 tournament.
The 25-year-old Cooke player had to sit in the stands for the Pool A games in Dublin, but was named on the bench for Tuesday’s fifth-place semi-final against Australia.
And she got a call earlier than expected when centre Jenny Murphy suffered concussion.
Unfortunately Ireland went on to lose 36-24 putting them into that precarious 7th-8th place play-off and the win or lose qualification scenario for 2021.
A trainee doctor at the Mater Hospital and born in Bushmills, the centre did cut a slightly frustrated figure on Tuesday after the game - obviously happy to have finally made her appearance at a home World Cup even if she had to bide her time.
“From not playing the first three games I was feeling fresh and knew I had to bring everything I had,said McLaughlin.
“I got on earlier than I thought I would.
“Obviously I was pretty happy to get on and it was a bit of relief because I’ve been on the high bench for the past three games.
“It had been very disappointing but everyone in that 28-woman squad has a role to play and on match day you’re in the dressing-rooms helping everyone and getting everything that needs to be got.
“You’re doing everything except the playing part, which is obviously frustrating, but there is a real squad feel and everyone feels part of it.
It has been a great experience in spite of not playing in the first three games.
“We’ve all been training and working really hard over the last few months and anybody in the squad could come on at any stage and make that big difference,” added the former Coleraine High pupil.
The importance of the game tomorrow is not lost on the squad who have not performed as well as they had hoped having started the competition as fifth seeds and looking to at least repeat their previous semi-final appearance.
“I think we owe it to ourselves to get that performance,” said McLaughlin.
“We’re disappointed but we have to bring a winning mindset on Saturday.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve become so tight as a squad and we have done so well to come together so I think we really do owe it to ourselves. Positivity will be the key.”