Hannah Tyrrell has been a virtual ever-present in recent years in the Ireland women’s sevens squad.

Her involvement in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has taken Tyrrell to all corners of the globe and has given her some cherished memories.

But now the winger/full-back has decided to close the book on that particular chapter in her life and retire from sevens in order to focus on 15s and Ireland’s attempts to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2021.

The transition, something which she has done before, also fits in better with her current personal life and career situation.

“I’ve been with sevens a long time. It’s where I started my international career and through that, I got into an Irish jersey in 15s,” she said, reflecting on the decision from her home in Dublin.

“While in Ireland you can play both sevens and 15s, it can be quite difficult and there are restrictions on that so I kind of decided I’ve done enough sevens and, also, I’m a bit older and there are other aspects in my life.

“I’ve just qualified as a secondary school teacher and I am getting married next year. With 15s being amateur here, it is much easier to have a full-time teaching career and play 15s than it is to do with sevens,” she explained.

“I signed my first contract in 2014, so its been a long six years but a very enjoyable six years,” she added.

“To be honest, when I was first brought into the sevens set-up, I didn’t think I’d last that long. It’s been a crazy, crazy ride and it’ll be so great to look back on the memories I have when I am older.

“We had a home tournament to qualify for the world series in 2015, and that was a pretty cool memory playing in front of friends and family, playing in the Sevens World Cup was amazing, and finishing fourth in Sydney in 2019 was amazing, too, because it was the highest we’d ever finished on the series.”

World Cup focus

Now the recently turned 30-year-old is hoping that when retirement in all forms of the game eventually comes, her 15s memories will be equally treasured.

Already a Women’s Six Nations winner with Ireland in 2015 – she played in each of their four wins and only missed the defeat to France – Tyrrell knows Ireland have a point to prove on the world stage after a disappointing showing on home soil at Rugby World Cup 2017.

Ireland’s eighth-place finish was not enough for them to secure automatic qualification for New Zealand 2021, leaving them in a four-way battle with Italy, Scotland and the yet-to-be-decided winner of the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship, to go through as regional winners.

For Tyrrell, it is vital that they get the job done.

“With 15s, the Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle,” she acknowledged.

“Having played in a home World Cup was amazing but we didn’t perform; we didn’t get the placing that we wanted to, and it has left us in this position where we have to qualify for the next World Cup.

“That’s a big thing for me. With the qualifiers coming up in the next few months, I really wanted to give everything for the team and, hopefully, we can qualify and head into the World Cup in a good space.

“(In New Zealand) The weather is going to be nice, the people are nice, and the pitches will be insane. But I couldn’t care where the World Cup is as long as I am playing in it. It could be in my local field, and I’d be happy.”

Rebuilding process

Tyrrell played in New Zealand for the first time earlier this year in Hamilton, in what turned out to be her penultimate tournament on the world series.

And the Old Belvedere RFC player would love to be back playing there again, come September next year, as part of an Ireland team on the up.

“We have had a rough couple of years,” she admitted. “We lost a lot of players after 2014/15 and we’ve been slowly rebuilding.

“We have brought a lot of younger players through the age-grades. I think we have a good squad now and we just have to start building on our performances, which haven’t been good enough probably.

“This year is a good opportunity for us to step up and show how good we are, and how good we can be, and that starts with finishing off the Six Nations in October (against Italy and France) and then putting in good performances and getting good results at the World Cup qualifier. That has to be our big aim.

“We can’t expect it to be an easy ride, but we have to be qualifying for the next World Cup. It is a big thing for us to keep younger players in rugby, with them seeing us on the big stage and wanting to replicate that in the years to come.”

Tyrrell won’t say so much herself, but she has already inspired many people by battling through her own personal traumas to achieve so much in the game.

Blighted by insecurities in her teenage years, she has overcome an eating disorder and self-harming to achieve what she has achieved in rugby, as well as helping others in a similar position through her work with various mental health projects and charities.

Much more to come

Tyrrell says rugby helped play a part in her piecing her life back together again.

“I used to play Gaelic football and soccer and I picked up rugby quite late. When I did, it was at the tail-end of my recovery from my eating disorder and self-harming, so I suppose it gave me a new focus.

“I have always been very ambitious and want to be good at anything I try, so I threw myself into rugby and the new aspects of it and set myself a few goals.

“I’m extremely proud of how far I have come, not only on the pitch but off the pitch.

 “I definitely don’t think as a young teenager I’d have ever thought I’d be a professional athlete, travelling the world and playing in World Cups for my country – in any sport.

“I am hoping there is a lot more to come from me in the next couple of years in a green jersey.”
Read more: Rugby World Cup – the story so far >>