Women’s Six Nations Special – Leah Lyons


Despite all its flaws, social media can be a powerful tool for discussing some of the biggest issues in today’s society.

No-one knows this better than Leah Lyons, the Irish star who shot to prominence during the 2018 Women’s Six Nations with just one tweet.

Lyons was already well known in rugby circles for being one of the finest front row athletes in the game and had just put in a storming performance against Wales.

But it was her classy reaction to being body shamed during the game that saw her appear on news feeds worldwide, gaining plenty of adulation and recognition for bringing to light an issue that isn’t talked about enough in both sport and general society.

While she wanted to highlight what had happened, Lyons never expected the magnitude of the response she would get.

“I didn’t really expect anything from it,” the caytoo athlete recalled.

“I put that message out because I wanted to make an awareness of it. I think sometimes we don’t do it enough, we just leave it out, but this was the one day where I just thought I’m going to do it and see how it goes.

“I remember being in work next day and my phone was hopping, I just had to turn it off as I was coaching rugby and when I turned it back on there were messages from people everywhere and it was just nuts.

“People were so nice about it and I never expected that sort of reaction.”

Not that it would deter Lyons from the game she has dedicated her life to.

Speaking to the Harlequins player it is clear she loves rugby. And by that, I mean loves rugby.

That passion for the game developed at an early age and has only increased, something her Dad clearly recognised as he played a crucial role in ensuring his daughter had the chance to reach the international stage.

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The 24-year-old said: “All I wanted to do when I was growing up – and still now – is to play rugby and I guess you’ve just got to climb up the ladder.

“It’s a tough, long way up – you have to put in the effort to get anything out of it.

“My Dad is one of my number one supporters. He’d drive me to a tournaments and matches at weekends and sometimes if there weren’t enough players for our team he’d be ringing up other teams asking if I could play with them because I just wanted to play and I didn’t care who I was playing with.

“I started when I was seven and at the time there weren’t any girls’ age group teams so I joined in with the boys all the way up to U13 and then had to change over because girls can’t play with boys at that age.

“My Dad made a decision with a few other men in the club to set up a girls team. Then they set up a women’s team in the club before I turned 18.

“He’s been a massive support and you couldn’t ask anything more from your parents.”

It didn’t take long for that dedication for both sides to pay off as Lyons achieved what most of us can only dream of – representing your country on the biggest stage in front of a home crowd when Ireland hosted the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

The tournament had a huge impact not just on the game, but on how Irish people view women’s sport on the whole and really pushed the rugby players to the forefront of the public’s attention.

 

Indeed the support the Irish team are receiving is at an all-time high, confirmed when their fans set a then-tournament record attendance in their opening game of this year’s Six Nations against England.

That is something Lyons and her team-mates relish as it gives them the opportunity to be role models and inspire the next generation of players, whether that be through their performances, spending time with fans or by throwing their support behind the fantastic #CantSeeCantBe campaign.

This is where Lyons believes social media can once again have a positive impact and really help grow the momentum behind women’s sport.

“#CantSeeCantBe has done a lot, even just for advertising sport in general,” she said.

“Younger generations are massively on social media, on phones and for them to see us perform and play and it also gives us a platform to engage with them.

“All we want to do is get more girls playing rugby, get more girls playing any sport that is out there.”

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