wafer wales
It has taken some time for Aoife Wafer to enjoy a run of matches in an Ireland jersey.

Now that she is doing so in the Guinness Women's Six Nations, the flanker is showing the rugby world what she can do.

The 21-year-old was tipped for stardom after playing for and captaining various Irish and Leinster age-grade teams and receiving her first Irish central contract at the age of 18.

She duly won her first cap aged 19 in Ireland’s 29-8 win over Italy in 2022, but a hamstring injury and various other niggles meant she didn’t win another cap for 18 months, when she came off the bench against Spain in the 15-13 win that wrapped up the WXV3 title.

Along the way, she missed Ireland’s first tour to Japan, not to mention several tournaments on the World Rugby SVNS Series.

Now though she has rewarded Irish coach Scott Bemand’s belief, and her teammates’ support with two tries in three matches, as well as a Player of the Match performance in their 36-5 victory over Wales in round three.

“I was out for a fairly long time with that and there were definitely days that I was kind of sitting there and being like, is rugby really for me?” she tells us.

“Credit to the girls, they really pulled me out of some dark holes, and it wasn't just the injury. I had personal issues and head space things that were holding me back as well. The girls were unbelievably supportive, and the staff and the management were incredibly supportive.

“My injury was tough because I wasn't given a set time because we just didn't know. I’d nearly get to the end and then something set me back for another couple of weeks, which was really heartbreaking. Every time I was so close I was so excited, and I was just pushing to get out with the girls.”


While Ireland’s medical team “worked miracles” to get Wafer back on the pitch, it did give her the chance to undertake some practical research for her degree.

The Wexford native is studying Physiotherapy at University College Dublin, which means more often than not she is invited in by the medical team to inspect an injury or help with treatment.

In round one she scored Ireland’s first try of the tournament with a close-range drive to break through France’s defence late on. Then, against Wales, she popped up on the wing and powered through three tacklers to find the line and set up a memorable win with the opening score of the match.

The victory ended Ireland’s run of seven Six Nations defeats and puts them third behind England and France, a position that would book their place at the England 2025 Rugby World Cup.

“We know that we can put performances out there and we were fairly disappointed with the Italy game [27-21 defeat in round two],” she said. “We knew coming into the Wales game that if we were clinical in the opportunities that we created, then we could put on a performance for our crowd.

“There was a match-defining moment about two-and-a-half minutes into the game. Wales are known for their powerful maul, and we spoke all week in the forward pack about wanting to go and depower their maul, to really take that weapon away from them.

“They kick to the corner, and we're rolling up the sleeves thinking ‘all right, here we go'. Then we stopped it, so that was a really big buzz for us. I think we got a turnover off it and we’re thinking ‘we’re in this'.

“Then they got into the corner again and they went to their pick-and-go, which is another weapon of theirs, and we put huge line-speed on them and put huge pressure on their receiver and they dropped it. There's another win for us. Those big moments all add up. We took huge confidence from stopping the maul and then stopping their pick-and-go.”


Wafer has played rugby since age six, after she tagged along to her brothers’ training at Gorey RFC and persuaded her mother to let her join in with the boys. Then when she was 12 and no longer allowed to play alongside the boys, she joined Enniscorthy RFC.

Most recently she featured for the Wolfhounds as they won the inaugural Celtic Challenge, and while she has been around the Ireland set-up for several years, Wafer admits she was awestruck when she first trained with the senior Ireland team.

Wafer hasn’t sat still and has learned as much as she can from her teammates, notably co-captain and fellow flanker Edel McMahon, someone she shares her 25 March birthday with.

“She was definitely a player when I was younger that I looked up to,” Wafer said. “She has so much experience and taught me a lot. She’s driven me to higher standards.

“There’s so much competition in the back row and that drives you to be a better player. Whoever is picked we know they will go out and do a job.”


Wafer’s rugby education will continue in round four when she and her Irish teammate take on reigning Guinness Women's Six Nations champions and WXV1 winners England. Furthermore, they will do it in front of over 45,000 fans at Twickenham.

Ireland haven’t scored any points in Six Nations matches between the sides since 2019, but they have shown throughout this year’s tournament that they have the ability to stay in contention till the end.

“It’s crazy, isn't it? 45,000 tickets?” Wafer said. “A lot of our girls never would have played in front of that sort of crowd. I haven’t played in front of that sort of crowd. You do have to give credit to the English. They are arguably the best team in the world and have been for a number of years.

“It's first time I’ll play against England, and I don't think the Irish need any extra ammunition when it comes to an English game. We're not going to go there to sit down and play along with the English party.

“We're going to send ripples and fire shots. We'll definitely have a game plan and see what we can do. It's gonna be an exciting one.