7 June 2024

Coolac’s Clare Harpley selected for World University Championships Rugby Sevens in France

| Michael Murphy
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Clare Harpley on the attack for St Alberts in the Armidale competition.

Clare Harpley on the attack for St Alberts in the Armidale competition. Photo: Catherine Stephen Photography.

Coolac’s Clare Harpley has continued her impressive form in the sport of rugby by being selected in the Uniroos squad that will compete at the World University Championships Rugby Sevens in France from June 10-12.

The championships will be held in Aix-en-Provence, a city in the south of France, about 30 km north of Marseille.

A student at the University of New England in Armidale, Harpley had a stella 2023.

After playing very well at the Unisport Nationals in September, she continued her climb through the rugby ranks by being selected in the Rugby Australia University Women’s Sevens Rising Star Squad.

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This latest achievement of national representation at the championships has stemmed from hard work, determination and a lot of family support.

“I couldn’t believe it when I found out I’d been selected in the Uniroos team,” Clare said.

“I was overjoyed, as I never imagined playing at this international level. It’s such a special feeling, as I’ve been so committed and determined over the years in improving my game, and to be given this opportunity means the world to me.

“I’m so lucky to have Mum and Dad coming over. I am so grateful to have that support, and it will be so much fun to have a holiday together.”

Australia v France at the 2018 World University Rugby 7’s Championship final in Namibia.

Australia v France at the 2018 World University Championships Rugby Sevens final in Namibia. Photo: International University Sports Federation.

James Erwin is the Associate Director of Sport at the University of Canberra, and coach of the women’s Uniroos sevens side. After the naming of the squad, he stated on the university website that he is excited to see the players take on some of the best talent in the world.

For Harpley, the championships is not only an opportunity to test herself in elite sporting company, but a chance to experience the French culture and meet other competitors from all over the world.

“I’ve never been to France before, which is so exciting,” Harpley said.

“It [the tournament] will be a challenge, and there will be different styles, but I will also get the opportunity to meet people from other countries who love their rugby.”

Maurice David Stadium in Aix-en-Provence, France

Maurice David Stadium in Aix-en-Provence, France, the venue for the World University Championships Rugby Sevens. Photo: Federation Francaise Du Sport Universitaire.

After going through a qualification process, the Uniroos will now join teams from Canada, Spain, Ireland, South Africa, Mexico, Poland, India and Japan at the championships, along with host nation, France.

Two pools of five teams will play in the group stage on days one and two of the championships. On day three, the teams that finish top of each pool will play the second-placed side from the opposing pool in a semi-final. The winners of those matches will face off in the final prior to the closing ceremony.

The Australian team has been placed in the same pool as host nation France and Canada – two sides with good form in recent years.

Starting out at the Tumut Bullants, Clare progressed to represent Southern Inland Rugby Union and junior ACT Brumbies sides, with a stint in the Brumbies Super W squad being one of many career highlights.

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Right through this journey has been the aforementioned support of Clare’s parents Jon and Tanya. They will be in the south of France to watch the championships, live at Maurice David Stadium.

“It has been so rewarding to watch Clare balance her studies while contributing to college life and maintaining a strict training program,” Jon said.

“All sporting journeys have their ups and downs, but seizing the opportunity such as this in rugby is a just reward. As parents we all say the right things, but watching someone do it makes you very proud.”

Clare Harpley playing for the University of New England.

Clare Harpley playing for the University of New England. Photo: Catherine Stephen Photography.

With experience in both the 15-a-side and sevens formats, the fly-half or centre is looking forward to the unique aspect of sevens rugby, which is suited by her attacking style of play.

“As in 15’s, I play either fly-half or centre; it involves being strategic and playing at a fast pace, and this is very similar to the sevens game,” Harpley said.

“But there is a lot more space in sevens, and one-on-one defence is crucial.”

2018 was the last time the Uniroos qualified for this tournament, and it resulted in a 24-7 loss to France in the final.

A great effort, but Clare and her teammates will be hoping to go one better on 12 June.

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