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Tierney's Ireland fully locked, loaded and ready to take on the world

After months of build-up, Ireland are ready to take centre stage and embrace the expectation of a nation during the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

TOM TIERNEY’S METHODS have, at times, come into question over the course of this protracted World Cup build-up but the Ireland head coach will be hoping his masterplan all comes together tomorrow evening.

Tom Tierney Ireland head coach Tom Tierney. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With a long summer of preparation behind them, Ireland’s wait to launch their campaign on home soil is almost over as they get set to take centre stage in front of the world.

Wednesday 9 August 2017 is a date Tierney will have marked out in his diary since taking over the reins from Philip Doyle three years ago and now that it has finally arrived, all the hard work is done.

The coach’s decision to shuffle his squad over the last 12 months has come in for criticism with Tierney’s rotation policy raising concern in some quarters that the squad will be undercooked for a tournament of this stature.

It all came to a head during the Six Nations campaign when Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller and Hannah Tyrrell missed the game against France after the IRFU decided they would be better served going on sevens duty to Las Vegas.

Anthony Eddy, the IRFU’s director of women’s and sevens rugby, and Tierney stuck to their guns, insisting it was about giving as many players experience at international as possible with an eye on this tournament, an approach which will be proven right or wrong over the course of the next three weeks.

All that is done now with Ireland having entered the final stages of their match preparation for the first of their three Pool C assignments against Australia at the Belfield Bowl on Wednesday evening.

“We’re very pleased with the 28 [players] together, it’s very cohesive, we’ve a real solid bond, everyone is on the same page with what we’re trying to achieve, and everyone is very clear about what we’re trying to do on the pitch,” Tierney said.

Tom Tierney Tierney speaking to the media in UCD on Sunday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’ve set a real good foundation block that hopefully we can launch off on Wednesday. It has been a long summer, you’re always waiting for the tournament to start but we’re very pleased with how we prepared.

“It’s been very intense for the players and management, but to have it here now, feels really, really good. We’re in to match prep now, and that’s great, the waiting is the worst part.”

As well as the five outings during the Six Nations, Ireland played two trial games against Japan in UCD at the start of the summer and a couple of run outs against Spain during an intense four-day camp at Fota Island.

But preparations were rocked last week when Niamh Briggs, Ireland’s talismanic captain and leader, was ruled out of the tournament with an achilles injury she suffered in the final run in to the tournament.

It was the cruellest of blows for the luckless fullback, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury since last October, and a significant setback for Tierney who is now devoid of his most influential player.

Ireland do, however, have the comfort of knowing they’ve coped without Briggs before having played almost the entire Six Nations stripped of the Waterford native’s services.

“It happened in her rehab,” Tierney explained.

“She had rehabbed fully from the hamstring, and just in rehab and fitness running, her achilles went. We gave her every opportunity but it was something we had to disappointingly, and heartbreakingly for her, and the squad, we had to make the call.

“It was the right call, and we brought in Louise Galvin, who’ll do a super job. The onus now is on the players, and this will bring the squad closer together, that’s what you need a squad that’s watertight.”

Tierney added that he hopes the loss of Briggs will help galvanise and rally his squad as they prepare to enter battle: “Sport has a funny way of doing that, especially team sports.

Tom Tierney talks to his players The Ireland squad have been in camp since Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s like a switch that goes on, and suddenly you’re in a different mindset. The mindset is the key; we’re very conscious we’ve done all the hard work, from a strength and conditioning perspective, we’re very clear how we want to play, also we’re rock solid in team cohesion.

“If we have all three of those, then we’re going to be a difficult team to play against, and all the expectations outside, we’ll be able to handle that in the best possible way.”

You see, that’s the thing. This is not just any game for Ireland, nor is it just any other campaign. This is a World Cup on home soil with Tierney and his players going into tomorrow’s showdown with Australia with the weight of expectation on their shoulders.

While it ultimately comes down to 80 minutes of rugby, there is so much more to the evening. The first match of a tournament years in the making, a sold-out home crowd of 3,500 and thousands of others watching from all over the world. There is huge expectation and anticipation.

“There’s two ways of looking at it, one — you can see it as a negative and it can get to you, and you’ll lose your focus because that’s all you’re focusing on,” Tierney says.

“And two — what we’ve tried to do is right, every single player is responsible for their job, they do their job, the management do their job, and we bring that together as a team then we have a situation where we can bring that on to the pitch and suddenly all the outside factors and the occasion, then is not going to affect performance levels, but help it.

“The girls are very clear on that, and they’re driving it themselves.”

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Ryan Bailey

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