WHILE Ireland's disappointing loss to England in the Six Nations may have grabbed all the headlines nationally, there was a strong local presence on the womens senior and mens' U20's squads that took to the field against England last weekend.
The Irish Womens' team played England on Friday evening in Donnybrook and in front of a crowd of over 4,500 supporters, they were hit by an England juggernaut and were defeated 51-7.
There were three Offaly natives in the squad and they all started the game. Up front in the forwards, Nichola Fryday started in the second row. A former Tullamore club women, she now plays her club rugby with Galweigans and is a regular in the Connacht side.
The Kilcormac native has this year carved her way into the starting Ireland line up and played the full 80 minutes on Friday night.
At scrum half, Tullamore's Ailsa Hughes has become an integral part of the squad. She too is a former product of Tullamore RFC but is now applying her trade in Railway Union while she is also a Leinster regular.
Finishing off the Offaly trio was Michelle Claffey at inside centre. A Doon native, the former St Joseph's and St Saran's, Ferbane student is also a member of the Leinster system and plays her club Rugby with Blackrock.
Claffey looked lively in the early stages and made a strong move to the line in the opening minutes but it turned out to be a tough evening in general for the Irish squad.
They will now regroup and move on to a trip to Scotland this weekend in a bid to get their championship hopes back on track.
Meanwhile, there was some joy over the English at the weekend as the U20s produced an outstanding performance to beat the old enemy down in Cork on Friday night. A winning scoreline of 35-27 backed up the closeness of the game with the England men actually winning 24-20 at half time.
There was also local representation in Cork with Birr's Michael Milne coming off the bench early in the second half and he went on to have a fine game in the front row. The former Birr RFC player is now playing with UCD and Ireland and will be pushing hard for a starting spot when they travel to Scotland this weekend as they look to keep their winning run going.