EXCLUSIVE: Harlequins' Leah Lyons on being a role model, body positivity and money in rugby

Leah Lyons (left) says Harlequins invest in their players which gives them good head-space (PA Images)
Leah Lyons (left) says Harlequins invest in their players which gives them good head-space (PA Images)
17:01pm, Wed 18 Sep 2019
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As an Irish international and Harlequins prop Leah Lyons is used to standing up for herself and leading by example.                      

But as she looked ahead to the weekend and the start of the new Premier 15s season, she also talked about the influences that drive her forward and in particular the importance of body positivity in sport.

Speaking exclusively to NewsChain, the 24-year-old said: "I'm not the smallest person on the pitch (she's 5ft 9 and 16st 6) but I think we should all put our best foot forward - every single player.

"Whether we're tall, small, big, fat, whatever it is, I think we [rugby players] should definitely influence people around us

"We are running around at a top level club and everyone's different, no one looks the same but we've embraced that."

Lyons believes players should be looking to influence those around them (PA Images)

Alongside embracing body positivity, Harlequins have also taken another positive step to raising the bar by financially supporting their players. This season they are going to pay for players' accommodation when they travel away for games. 

Saracens Women and Worcester Warriors Women have started paying their players for the first time this season, something Richmond captain Hannah Field has said would make the league less competitive.

Lyons disagrees, and claims investment is a positive move.

She said: "I think it's a positive step forward. In terms of making it competitive, it's a league that is competitive. Every team will put their best foot forward to get to a good place to compete in the Premiership.

As well as financial backing, Lyons says that Quins support their players while they are in rehab for injury. The forward was unable to participate in the latter half of last season with a shoulder injury.

"Quins want to improve on and off the pitch, it's so important to what we do inside and outside of rugby. They really want what is best for us. 

"I think the club are very aware that players always want to be involved and pro-active in any way possible.

"They'd have us [injured players] running water, in management roles or helping out with kit.

"I think that's a massive thing, it keeps our head-space in a good place. We're always involved and we're always able to have our input, they definitely do the best thing for us". 

Harlequins are playing Richmond in the opening weekend of the Premier 15s.

Lyons said: "I'm excited as it will be my first proper game back from injury. 

"I can't wait to get in the mix and get into training and hopefully getting a good game. 

"To get back in my shirt, it's very exciting."

Harlequins lost out on the Premiership title last season after being beaten by Saracens in the final 33-17. So, are Saracens still the team to beat this season?

"Obviously Saracens are one of the big teams to go out and beat.

"But every club this year [look competitive], if you look at all the signings the clubs have made.

"I think it's a very interesting year to see how clubs go and see how they have developed.

"It's a great year to compete."

Irish rugby have a big challenge ahead to qualify for the 2021 World Cup (PA Images)

As well as competing in the Premier 15s, Lyons plays for Ireland who have found themselves needing to qualify for the next World Cup for the first time. Ireland hosted the 2017 World Cup but finished outside the top seven and so have not automatically qualified for 2021 in New Zealand.

Lyons says it's her dream to get on the plane for the finals.

"We've got a massive qualification, we are going to be against three big teams and it's going to be a fight as there's only one qualifying place.

"We have to do our best to compete to be on that plane to New Zealand, that's everybody's dream.

"We have messed up a bit which is why we are in this situation but I hope we will throw ourselves into a good place and get back into a good routine of winning.

"Going forward, getting on that plane to New Zealand, to go to the World Cup is the end goal of everything."

The Premier 15s starts again this weekend. Harlequins are playing Richmond on Saturday at The Stoop. Kick off is at 2pm 

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