Former Connacht player Nichola Fryday was named Irish Women’s Captain last week ahead of their 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations clash against Wales at The RDS today.
Being chosen to lead her country is the latest in a long line of honours for the Exeter Chiefs forward, who has won 22 Irish caps to date since her debut against Canada in 2016.
Few people are better placed to assess Fryday’s development as a Rugby player than JP Walsh, the 26-year-old’s former Connacht Women’s coach.
The current Connacht coach development officer for North West Connacht first met Fryday at a screening day at Buccanneers RFC and was suitably impressed to name her in his starting team for 2016 interprovincial’s at number 8, despite her comparative lack of experience in the sport.
“I made her the main line-out jumper straight away,” he said.
“She lead that part of the team from a young age. She first came into us in 2016 and she took to it like a duck to water. She was very, very coachable, extremely coachable, and a really good person, too, behind it all.
“She that hunger and that work rate to succeed and when you have those ingredients, it’s very easy for a coach to help them achieve what they want.”
Fryday’s talent as a Rugby player was clear to see from the beginning, but her leadership credentials were also evident and Walsh isn’t surprised that the Offaly native has been chosen to skipper Ireland.
The former Galwegian player's humility – her desire to learn more and push herself to succeed, despite already plying her trade at a high level – were also stand out attributes and are some of the main factors in her ascent to captaining her country.
“She leads by example,” Walsh said of the second rows on field personality.
“She’s a really good person and she went about things really quietly(while at Connacht). Every piece of advice you gave her, she took it and went away with it, worked on it, and came back better.
“Within her first few months of playing with us and before the Interpro’s, I told her ‘you’ll play for Ireland’. After seeing her talents, I knew she was well capable of playing for Ireland.”
Walsh is confident that Fryday’s success – coupled with the likes of Beibhinn Parson’s and Anne Maria O’Hora coming through the provinces developmental systems – will send a positive message to female players in Connacht that they can fulfill international ambitions by playing for the province and starting their careers in Connacht clubs.
“Without a shadow of a doubt,” Walsh said when asked whether other players in Connacht can take encouragement from Fryday’s achievements.
“You could compare it to Bundee Aki playing for The Lions last summer, these moments are huge for the people of Connacht.
“She’s made this all for herself. She was willing to come down to Connacht, while she was in college in Dublin and she balanced the two. She was doing all that traveling from Dublin just to come to training.”
“Everyone will be well used to her name in a couple of years' time.”