When it comes to motivating players, there are few Sharks as vocal as winger and full-back Lauren Delany. Having made her international debut at the relatively late age of 28, and now studying for a doctorate, the Irish sensation is showing no signs of taking a back seat on or off the field.
“Leadership is definitely something I’ve been working on this year,” says Lauren, her right ankle set in plaster from a tibia fracture suffered in training.
“One of my biggest strengths is that I’m quite vocal – I think there’s an element of that that comes with the territory of playing 15 for so many years because you can see so much of what’s happening on the field.”
Rugby is not the only sport Lauren has represented her country in, and the 32-year-old has in fact spent more of her life shooting hoops than donning boots.
Picking up basketball from a young age at her Dublin school (alongside Gaelic football of course), Delany has competed in the Ireland Women’s Superleague with Meteors Basketball Club and represented Ireland all the way up to U23s level.
“In basketball you’ve got to be athletic, fit, you’ve got to have speed, good footwork, and great hand-eye coordination – so things like passing, catching, and the highball came naturally to me in rugby,” she said.
“The big thing to get my head round was the contact, but since changing to the wing I enjoy tackling a lot more.”
Delany earned her first Ireland caps aged 28, starting at full-back against England in the 2019 Women’s Six Nations. By 2020, the late-blooming star had transitioned to wing.
“When you start playing rugby at full-back there’s so much space. It’s definitely a lot harder because you have to have the speed and the footwork to get to the tackle zone.”
Currently studying for her PhD with Leeds Rhinos rugby league club, outside her career with Sharks, Lauren is a performance nutritionist and dietician.
After a season of ups and downs for Sale Sharks Women, Lauren said she remains confident in the foundations being laid at the club.
“You can see how much we’ve developed and grown across this season. If you look at most of our half-time scores, we are able to compete with all the top five teams in the league and I think that paints a good picture in terms of the progress we’ve made,” she said.
“All we need is just a few games to go our way and then people will look at us very differently.”