Posted: 1 month ago

Ulster’s Ashleigh Orchard is bound for Paris Olympics rugby – just 12 months after birth of baby daughter Arabella

Ashleigh Orchard and daughter Arabella (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

COOKE and Ulster Rugby’s Ashleigh Orchard is Paris Olympics bound to complete a remarkable return to the rugby pitch just 12 months after giving birth to her daughter, Arabella.

Ashleigh (32), formerly Baxter, is the sole Ulster representative on the Ireland Sevens team named for the Women’s tournament in Paris from July 28-30 and will become Ireland Sevens first international mum.

Ashleigh has made 87 appearances for Ireland Sevens in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens series and represented Ireland at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014 and 2017. She was named Ulster Rugby Personality of the Year in the 2022 Ulster Rugby Awards.

Lucy Rock will captain Ireland Women for their Olympic debut at the Stade de France.

Having played key roles in qualification for Paris, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Stacey Flood, Emily Lane, Béibhinn Parsons, Erin King, Vicky Elmes Kinlan, Eve Higgins, and Megan Burns are all included, while Kathy Baker has made a strong comeback from a long-term knee injury and teenager Alanna Fitzpatrick – who made her senior debut last summer – completes the travelling squad.

Claire Boles and Amy Larn have been selected as Travelling Reserves.

Looking ahead to a historic campaign, Rock said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for the Ireland Sevens programme as two teams prepare to compete in Paris.

“To lead this team out at the Olympics will be an extremely proud moment.”

Ireland Sevens Performance Director, David Nucifora, added: “It is a landmark and proud day for us to confirm our Men’s and Women’s Sevens squads to represent Team Ireland at Paris 2024.

“A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes for the last number of years for us to reach this milestone, and it is testament to the dedication, talent and resilience of the players and staff in the Ireland Sevens programme – past and present – that we now have the privileged opportunity to be part of Team Ireland for Paris.

“The selected players have worked extremely hard to earn this opportunity, and while it is a proud and hugely exciting moment for them and their families, we must also acknowledge the members of wider Ireland Sevens squads who have missed out on selection through injury or today received disappointing news. They will continue to play an integral role in our preparation for Paris in the weeks ahead.

The Pool draws for the Rugby Sevens tournaments will take place on 23 June.

Ireland Women’s Sevens Squad – Paris 2024: 

Kathy Baker (Blackrock College RFC)
Megan Burns (Blackrock College RFC)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union RFC)
Alanna Fitzpatrick (Portarlington RFC/Blackrock College RFC)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union RFC)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union RFC)
Erin King (Old Belvedere RFC)
Vicky Elmes Kinlan (Wicklow RFC)
Emily Lane (Blackrock College RFC)
Ashleigh Orchard (Cooke RFC)
Béibhinn Parsons (Blackrock College RFC)
Lucy Rock (Wicklow RFC)(captain)

Travelling Reserves:

Claire Boles (Railway Union RFC)
Amy Larn (Athy RFC).