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Ireland head coach McWilliams backs Parsons to 'do some damage' from the bench

The 20-year-old superstar is held in reserve for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Wales.

Beibhinn Parsons has been one of Ireland's top players of late.
Beibhinn Parsons has been one of Ireland's top players of late.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

IRELAND WOMEN’S HEAD coach Greg McWilliams has explained his selection of Beibhinn Parsons on the bench for this weekend’s Six Nations opener against Wales.

McWilliams is hoping that the 20-year-old superstar can “do some damage” and make her impact felt in a different capacity having been a regular starter on the wing under Adam Griggs.

Parsons is fully-fit, having recovered from a recent injury, but is held in reserve for Saturday’s clash at the RDS [KO 4.45pm, live on Virgin Media One].

“Beibh’s been working really hard,” McWilliams said. “I think it’s right for her to come off the bench. I think we need to be smart about how we use all of our players.

“Beibh’s been training brilliantly but we just need to make sure that we look after her minutes. To have her to come off the bench to add that impact is going to be really important for us — along with Anna McGann and our tight five reserves, we’re going to use our bench and we hope to see her coming off and doing some damage, hopefully.”

“I think we’ve selected a brilliant back three,” he added, with Munster full-back Eimear Considine, and Sevens flyers Lucy Mulhall and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe the wingers in situ.

“I think in the modern game, you want your back three to be really active, they’re nearly like extra centres. Sometimes they’re like back rowers. The game has changed and I think we’ve got a really good mix in the back three.

“And I think having somebody like Beibhinn to be able to come off the bench to provide an impact is good for us, and I’m looking forward to seeing it operate at the weekend.”

While Parsons takes on a different role, her Ireland Sevens and Blackrock College team-mate and fellow Ballinasloe native Aoibheann Reilly is set for her debut.

Reilly, 21, is named at scrum-half after a string of impressive displays in the Energia All-Ireland League.

“First and foremost, she’s a brilliant person,” McWilliams continued. “She’s really important for the group. She’s a really good energizer.

“She understands her role well, and she’s very talented. She’s somebody who’s got a massive future, and I’m just excited to see her go out. You’d say to somebody like Aoibheann, ‘Just worry about doing your own job, you don’t do anything special, just do what you do, and you’ll be fine.’

“But it’s just making sure that she enjoys the occasion and takes it all in because they’re special occasions, and Aoibheann is just another player who has got the opportunity to go out and do something special for herself, for her family and for the group.”

There’s a huge sense of excitement around the group as a new era begins this weekend.

McWilliams and co. are very much future-focused, with all of the recent off-field developments and outside noise parked.

greg-mcwilliams Greg McWilliams speaking to his players. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Ireland were 45-0 winners over the Welsh in last year’s Six Nations, and that too, is in the rear-view mirror.

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“I don’t look back on that fixture from last year because you’re dealing with a completely different animal,” McWilliams noted. “Remember, they’ve all got momentum going towards the Rugby World Cup.

“There’s seven or eight players that are playing for Bristol in the Allianz, at a good standard. The likes of [Siwan] Lillicrap and Jazz Joyce, you’re also looking at Megan Webb and [Robyn] Wilkins and [Keira] Bevan in the halfbacks, I mean they’re really good rugby players and they’re now in that professional environment more often.

“There’s 12 full-time pros, there’s 12 part-time pros. Ioan Cunningham, their coach, I’m in a WhatsApp group with him that Bernard Jackman created and he’s a smart coach, he offers a lot. I think Wales have got the right person to lead that programme. Nigel Walker, behind the scenes, is doing great work with the community.

“I think It’s a completely different outfit. It’s a great one to start with. There’s always a good ding-dong with Wales and I think they’re gonna come out ready to go. They’re prepping for a World Cup and they’re going to have their ducks in-a-row. They’re very good, they did well in their November Tests and they were good as well against the Falcons last week, judging by the score-line. We’ve got our work cut out and we’re looking forward to giving it a go.”

“We know what’s coming at us, it’s tough opposition but such an exciting opportunity for us as a group to go out and test ourselves,” he concluded.

“And for the girls, I’m just so proud of their application, their energy and their commitment to what we’re trying to build here. It’s been inspirational. My hope is that they just go out and they show that and whatever happens after that is a bonus.”

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