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'It's Important To Share The Fact That It's OK To Be Vulnerable And Ask For Help'

'It's Important To Share The Fact That It's OK To Be Vulnerable And Ask For Help'

Earlier this year Ireland rugby international Sene Naoupu opened up regarding an eating disorder which nearly derailed her sports career in her early 20s.

Naoupu spoke out as she had joined to the board of Bodywhys, the Irish national charity for eating disorders.

The 35-year-old, who was born in New Zealand and began playing rugby for in Ireland 2015, said not everyone knew about the troubles she had suffered.

"It was really important for me to share the story and the experience I went through," the 2015 Six Nations winner said at the launch of Energia's partnership with the IRFU.

It's important to share the fact that it's OK to be vulnerable and ask for help. At the time [I had the eating disorder], I had a similar service myself. I was just really lucky that I had a strong family network and support around me.

I was really surprised at the messages. Parents have been reaching to talk about their daughters who are playing rugby and other sports.

It was positive that parents are reaching out and young girls are reaching out, realising that they can get through certain things.

"It was difficult and it wasn't," said Naoupu regarding her decision to speak out.

"The intention was to help others. It was never about me. Looking after our mental health, that was a big cue for me to say, 'Hell yes, I need to make sure people are aware of this, young girls in particular'.

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Sene Naoupu in attendance at the launch of Energia's partnership with the IRFU

"With the ease and accessibility of social media and being exposed to all these different types of images of females, I thought it was just a really important time to remind young girls to look after their mental health, body image and to accept who they are as opposed to wanting to look like something they are constantly exposed to on their phones.

"That can affect their interest and ability to participate in sport. Sometimes there's that stereotype or stigma when you're a young girl if you're going to play sport, you're going to end up being a certain body image and you don't want to necessarily be like that. It was important for me because I'm passionate about sport in general, increasing participation in sport."

Last month Naoupu was called up to the Barbarians team for their first game against England. They lost 40-14 but it is an experience she will remember fondly.

"I was actually in Malaysia in the World Cup for Touch [when I got the call].

"We were halfway through our campaign - we had 11 games in six days so it was probably on day three that I got a few messages from Stockers, Fiona Stockley, who is the mastermind behind launching the women's Barbarians side.

"She sent all sorts of messages, emails and that to get to me because I wasn't on social that much during that particular campaign so she eventually got in touch and it just went from there really. It really was an honour and I couldn't turn that down.

"For me, it almost, in some ways, felt a bit like a full circle. Some of those girls I played against back in New Zealand many years ago. So I got to play with them and be on the same team."

Energia, one of Ireland’s leading energy suppliers, today announced its official partnership with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU). This five-year partnership will see Energia become Official Energy Partner to Irish Rugby and title sponsor of both the Men’s and Women’s All Ireland League (AIL) competitions.

See Also: England Name 35-Man Rugby World Cup Training Squad

PJ Browne
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