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Former Irish international worries for inexperienced players ahead of World Cup

Tania Rosser spoke about her concerns on the eve of Ireland’s first Pool C fixture.

Nicole Cronin gets a tackle in during a training session with the Ireland team.
Nicole Cronin gets a tackle in during a training session with the Ireland team.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A FORMER IRISH RUGBY international has expressed concern for some players on the World Cup squad, regarding their level of match practice at international level.

Tania Rosser, who represented Ireland at three World Cups, is worried that players such as uncapped scrum-half Nicole Cronin might be lacking the experience required to perform in a tournament of this scale.

Speaking to The42 on the eve of Ireland’s opening World Cup pool fixture, she said:

“Nicole is a talented player, she’s probably one of the best passers as a scrum-half that I’ve seen, but she hasn’t had any game management at international level, or at a high provincial level.

The skills will get her through, but it would be game management for Nicole that I would be worried about. If the game is tight and anything happens to Larissa [Muldoon], will she be able to come in and finish the game?

“There’s other girls there too who haven’t had enough time [playing at international level], but the core of the team have played in the last Six Nations, so they will hopefully push on through.”

Ashleigh Baxter played in Ireland’s 2014 World Cup as a winger, but has since made a transition to the back row following some behind-closed-doors warm-ups, and inter-provincial appearances for Ulster.

Eddie O'Sullivan Tania Rosser, Sarah Jane Belton and Kim Flood Former Ireland Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan, recently retired Ireland international Tania Rosser, former Ireland international Sarah Jane Belton and current Ireland international Kim Flood. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

She has also been heavily involved in Ireland’s sevens programme under the tutelage of current boss Anthony Eddy.

Rosser appreciates that Baxter is an accomplished player, but is unsure about how the 25-year-old will cope with the new position in a World Cup environment.

“That would be my concern but they might still surprise us. You’ve got Ashleigh Baxter who hasn’t played in the back row, but yet Ashleigh is a very talented footballer.

She has strong football skills attacking the breakdown area and she’ll get through that on her own raw ability. She’s fit, she’s strong and she’ll be able to make that step across but she’s stepping into a world international rugby match, and that’s a lot of pressure on her.

“She’s got a great attitude, so she’ll fight on through.”

Rosser’s birth country New Zealand are among the favourites to triumph at this World Cup, along with reigning Six Nations champions England, who are also in the mix.

She featured in the Irish team that famously defeated the Black Ferns during the 2014 World Cup, and played a key-role at scrum-half.

Tania Rosser supported by Siobhan Fleming Tania Rosser in action for Ireland against the Black Ferns in 2014. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Although she’s no longer directly involved with the squad, she vows to remain loyal to her adopted nation should the sides meet again at this tournament.

“My rugby jersey is always green and I’ll always be behind the girls in green. Irish rugby gave me a lot of opportunities and that was my jersey. I can’t sway from supporting the girls in green.

I’d love to be out there. Just walking around there [UCD Bowl] the last few days, I wish I had another opportunity to play in the World Cup. But I’m happy with my three World Cups and I don’t think I’d be able to run around with those girls at the moment.

“The Irish supporters are amazing. I don’t think any other supporters come close to what the Irish supporters bring to the game. Playing in front of your home crowd would just be phenomenal in a World Cup.”

Tania Rosser will form part of eir Sport’s punditry team covering the World Cup. eir Sport will show every Women’s Rugby World Cup Game, including all Irish games and the final.

Ireland’s pool games in the UCD Bowl: Dublin against Australia on 9 August, Japan on 13 August and France on 17 August – all live on eir Sport.

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