Sene Naoupu (née: Fanene) is an Ireland women's rugby union international. Naoupu was a member of the Ireland team that won the 2015 Women's Six Nations Championship. She also represented Ireland at the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup. She is also an Ireland women's rugby sevens international. Naoupu is a Samoan New Zealander who originally emigrated to Ireland in 2009 with her husband, George Naoupu, the former Highlanders, Harlequins and Connacht rugby union player. Naoupu is also a lifestyle coach and fitness trainer and operates her own business, Senshaper. In 2016, Naoupu was listed by The Irish Times as one of the thirty most influential women in Ireland.[3][4]

Sene Naoupu
Birth nameSene Fanene
Date of birth (1984-02-02) 2 February 1984 (age 37)[1]
Place of birthDunedin, New Zealand[2]
Height5 ft 6 in (168 cm)
Weight71 kg (157 lb)
UniversityUniversity of Otago
Notable relative(s)Julianna Naoupu (sister-in-law)
SpouseGeorge Naoupu
Rugby union career
Position(s) Centre/Fly-half
Youth career
North Otago
Hawke's Bay
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
Whitestone 45ers
Aylesford Bulls Ladies
Harlequins Ladies
Old Belvedere
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
Otago Spirit
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
2015–  Ireland 40
National sevens team(s)
Years Team Comps
2015–  Ireland

Early lifeEdit

Naoupu was born into a Samoan New Zealander family and raised in Oamaru by her single mother, Toeafiafi Taiti. She started playing sport from a very young age in her back yard with her brother and cousins. By the age of five or six, she was playing cricket, softball and touch rugby.[5][6][7]

Playing careerEdit

Early yearsEdit

Naoupu started playing women's rugby union at 13 and in her youth played for North Otago and Hawke's Bay.[1][5][8] She attended the University of Otago on a basketball scholarship before switching sports and concentrating on rugby union.[6][9] In September 2003 she was included in a New Zealand women's national rugby union team training squad along with Farah Palmer and Anna Richards.[10] She attended further trials for the Black Ferns but failed to make the team. After developing an eating disorder and depression, she took a break from playing rugby union. She was also diagnosed with anorexia by her university doctor.[6][7][5] In 2008 she made a comeback, playing club rugby union with Whitestone 45ers.[9]


In 2008, while working as a co-host on a sports radio show in Auckland, Sene met George Naoupu, who at the time was playing for the Highlanders. In 2011 they were married in Christchurch. Her subsequent playing career has mirrored that of her husband's. Sene and George Naoupu first moved to Ireland in 2009 when the latter began playing for Connacht. They then spent a year in Japan where George played for the Kobelco Steelers and Sene coached rugby union to children. In 2011 they returned to Ireland when George rejoined Connacht. Sene subsequently played for Galwegians where her coaches included George. In 2016 when George joined Harlequins, Sene played for Aylesford Bulls Ladies and then Harlequins Ladies.[6][5][11] In July 2017 George retired as a professional rugby union player and took up a player/coaching role with Wicklow.[12] At the same time, Sene began playing for Old Belvedere.[13][14]

Provincial levelEdit

In New Zealand when she was at the University of Otago, Naoupu played for Otago Spirit in the Women's Provincial Championship. Her sister, Sini Fanene, also played for Otago Spirit.[1][7][9] In Ireland, Naoupu has represented both Connacht and Leinster in the IRFU Women's Interprovincial Series.[14][15] She made her debut for Leinster on 3 December 2017 against Ulster.[13][16][17][18]

Ireland internationalEdit

Having lived in Ireland since 2009, Naoupu became eligible to represent the Ireland women's national rugby union team.[19] On 6 February 2015 she made her debut for Ireland in the 2015 Women's Six Nations Championship against Italy.[7][20] On 27 November 2016 when she made her 14th appearance for Ireland against New Zealand, Naoupu was asked by head coach, Tom Tierney, to present the Ireland jerseys to her teammates.[5][21] She also represented Ireland at the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup.[22]

Naoupu has also played for the Ireland women's national rugby sevens team in the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series.[23] In February 2017 Naoupu, together with Alison Miller and Hannah Tyrrell, was controversially withdrawn from Ireland's 2017 Women's Six Nations Championship squad in order to represent the Ireland Sevens in the 2017 USA Women's Sevens. This was because Ireland's Sevens were chasing a top eight finish in the 2016–17 World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in order to qualify for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.[24][25] In April 2017 Naoupu scored three tries as she helped Ireland win the Challenge Trophy at the 2017 Japan Women's Sevens.[26]

Naoupu has lined out for Ireland in the 2008, 2019, 2020 and 2021 Women's Six Nations and has scored 30 points.

She had a serious health scare in early 2020. A routine scan on a neck injury she got in the Six Nations game against England found a tumour. She had surgery to remove it and had to work with a speech therapist to recover her vocal strength.[1]

But the Covid-enforced rescheduling of the second half of the 2020 Women's Six Nations meant she was back in time to start in Ireland's defeat of Italy in October.[27]

In October 2020 Naoupu became a member of World Rugby's Women’s Advisory Council.


Naoupu is a lifestyle coach and fitness trainer. She has a company which partners with national governing bodies to facilitate player pathways and is an outspoken supporter of girls and women in sport. She is a board director for the national charity BodyWhys for those with eating disorders, something she suffered from herself in her '20s.

In 2017 the Irish Times named her among Irelands' 30 Most Influential Women' and, in 2020, the Irish Examiner named her the 10th Most Influential Women in Irish Sport.[2]


Ireland Sevens
  • Rugby Writers of Ireland Women's Player of the Year
    • Winners: 2016



  1. ^ a b c "Sene Naoupu". 30 March 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  2. ^ "The lives and times of players in exile". 26 September 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Rugby's Sene Naoupu Makes Irish Times Top 30 List". 4 March 2017. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b "30 Irish women you need to know". 4 March 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Ireland star Naoupu always looking to give more on second coming". 7 January 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d "Sene Naoupu getting over gainline on and off the pitch". 30 March 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d "Rugby: Everything clicking now for Naoupu". Otago Daily Times. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  8. ^ "Anorexia Nervosa: 'Being so sick gave me a different emotional muscle'". 14 April 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  9. ^ a b c "Rugby: Inspirational sisters shake off illness to make Otago squad". Otago Daily Times. 14 June 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  10. ^ "40 chase places in Black Ferns". 24 September 2003. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  11. ^ "Waking hours with Sene Naoupu, lifestyle coach and fitness trainer". 15 December 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Former Connacht star leaves Harlequins to become player coach of Wicklow RFC". 1 August 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Preview: 2017 Women's Interprovincial Series". 29 November 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Leinster Women's Squad Named For 2017 Interprovincial Series". 22 November 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Leinster v Connacht - Women's Interprovincial Photos". 29 August 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  16. ^ "Tears of joy as Munster regain Interpro title after scoring difference is required to pip Leinster". 16 December 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  17. ^ "Ulster v Leinster - Women's Interprovincial Rugby Photos". 3 December 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Leinster v Connacht - Women's Interprovincial Series Photos". 9 December 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  19. ^ "Irish rugby has another not-so-secret Kiwi weapon plotting Six Nations glory". 7 March 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  20. ^ "Winning Start For Ireland Women In Florence". 6 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  21. ^ "Schmidt watches on as clinical Black Ferns have too much class for Ireland". 27 November 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  22. ^ "Wales put Ireland out of their World Cup misery". 26 August 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  23. ^ "Ireland Women's Sevens Squad Confirmed For Langford". 22 May 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  24. ^ "IRFU to pull three key Ireland players from Six Nations to go on 7s duty". 21 February 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  25. ^ "IRFU defend decision to pull key women's players from Six Nations clash". 23 February 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  26. ^ a b "Naoupu stars as Ireland Women claim Sevens Trophy". 24 April 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  27. ^ "Determined Ireland beat Italy in Dublin". BBC Sport. Retrieved 22 April 2021.