Boyle tries to balance rugby and university.

Mícheál Ó Scanaill

24 February 2017; Paul Boyle of Ireland in action against Cameron Woki of France during the RBS U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and France at Donnybrook Stadium, in Donnybrook, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

DCU student Paul Boyle has been picked in the team of the tournament for the recent Under 20 Six Nations Championship.

Boyle, who was on-field captain for parts of Ireland’s campaign, was picked as the open side flanker for the tournament that ran in February and March.

The Lansdowne, Leinster and Ireland back row was honoured with his selection in the team of the tournament by Opta, a sports analytics company.

Opta say that after every match they complete a video analysis of every touch of the ball. Each action in the match is awarded a points value depending on the relative importance of the action. The player is then given a score for the match by adding up all his actions while he was on the field‘.

When all of this information was culminated, they found that Boyle had the most points and played the biggest role of any number seven in the tournament. He was one of only three Irish players to receive this honour, along with Jordan Larmour and Oisín Dowling.

Although Ireland had a disappointing campaign in terms of where they finished, fourth position of the six teams, they were unlucky in both the games that they lost, to Wales and to England.

When England came to Donnybrook in search of a grand slam, they had beaten every other team by at least 16 points and secured winning bonus points for scoring four or more tries in every game, but Ireland were denied a victory only when, in the last minute they were held up over the opposition’s line.

Speaking about his achievement Boyle said, “It’s obviously a massive honour to be named in the team (of the tournament) but I’m still a bit disappointed about how the tournament went.

“I’d much prefer not to be picked in team of the tournament and for the team to have gotten on the other side of those two fairly unlucky losses.”

One of the toughest challenges amid this relative rugby glory for Boyle has been balancing university, where he studies Law and Society, with his rugby career. The weeks leading up to and during the Six Nations Boyle had training every day, most of which was outside of Dublin.

Most of Boyles teammates from other colleges, who are in the same situation of trying to balance the two, were offered allowances with their courses, to spread the course out over an extra year or to carry some modules forward.

When Boyle approached DCU however, he was told that they “recommend he puts his education first”, and was given no help in keeping up with his course while he was at training camps. He has found himself behind in several modules as a result.

“DCU has some really good rugby players, a lot of representatives, most of them won’t play for the university though. I think that if they were treated like players are in most other colleges, then they would. It is not down to arrogance or anything, it’s just that our workload is huge and it is not really taken into consideration,” Boyle alleges.

The DCU rugby team, known as the Force, has enjoyed relative success of late, winning the Boyle shield, but Boyle feels he and other interprovincial and international representatives of his calibre in the university should be encouraged by all means to play rugby with the DCU Force.

The next few months for Boyle will go a long way in determining how far he will advance in his career with provincial academy drafts looming. Being selected for one of the provinces academies would mean that for Boyle, professional rugby would be clearly in sight.

Boyle will be keen to impress in the remainder of his matches for Lansdowne senior rugby team who are guaranteed a spot in the All-Ireland League with several games remaining in the season. Having started at number eight for the club so far this season he has the opportunity to win a coveted AIL title in his first year of senior rugby.

Coming off a personally successful Six Nations campaign, he also will be expected to start in the Junior World Championship, the Under 20 equivalent of the World Cup, which will be held in Georgia in June.

“I have a really exciting couple of months ahead of me,” Boyle said.

“It’s going to be a great experience to play in a world cup, I won’t get ahead of myself I’m just going to keep working hard and try to continue to enjoy it.”

Whether Boyle’s dream of playing professional rugby will transpire is yet to be seen. He is, however, on the right path and with an exciting couple of months ahead he has a great opportunity to achieve his goal.

Mícheál Ó Scanaill

Image credit: Sportsfile