Ireland centre Enya Breen. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
feeling good

'We're playing with a bit of confidence and ambition that we haven't had much of before'

Ireland centre Enya Breen played a starring role in the 57-22 defeat of Japan last Saturday.

SATURDAY’S FIRST TEST defeat of Japan was a memorable day in more ways than one for Ireland centre Enya Breen. 

Not only did Greg McWilliams’ side come from 15-0 down to record an impressive nine-try, 57-22 win in Shizuoka, 23-year-old Breen delivered arguably her strongest performance yet for Ireland, showcasing her superb passing skills across an influential 80-minute display which saw her heavily involved in a number of Ireland tries while also chipping in with a big defensive effort.

“Yeah, I think for me personally it was probably one of my favourite days in the green jersey,” says Breen, who has won 15 caps since debuting against France in the 2019 Six Nations.

“Even if we didn’t start as well as we would have liked, there was no sense of panic. Everyone was completely calm, everyone had that bit of belief that once we got on the ball, once we started to do what we know we can do, we’d be well on top.

Everyone is happy in camp at the moment and we’re playing with a bit of confidence and ambition that we haven’t had much of before. So yeah, it’s exciting times and we’re excited to push on and see what we can do in the future.”

Central to Breen’s eye-catching performance was her smart decision making and range of passing, a skill she believes has improved as her confidence within the team has grown, something McWilliams has been keen to develop. 

“We’ve been doing a lot of work on it (passing) at the moment. Before every training session we’ve been having a skills wheel so it’s kind of whatever focuses people have individually, but there’s been loads of catch-passes, loads of kicking, loads of your basics of the game.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to show what I’ve been working on at the weekend and glad that the hard work is starting to pay off as well. 

He’s (McWilliams) just provided us with the opportunity to connect with each other both on and off the pitch. For me personally, he’s given me the confidence and the belief to back myself, and I suppose he’s just given us a sense of freedom and ambition to push on as a group.”

Ireland are now hoping to build on Saturday’s win by claiming the series this weekend in Tokyo, an achievement which would be all the more remarkable given the youthful look to McWilliams’ squad – with six players winning their first Test caps last weekend.

“It’s been good,” Breen continues. “I think they’ve (young players) learned some things off me, I’ve learned some things off them. I don’t know, I suppose I feel like I have stepped up a bit, but I feel like I have the confidence to do that now.

“I’m just backing myself a lot more and being able to pass on the information that I’ve learned from centres I’ve played with before and being able to see things from their point of view as well. 

enya-breen-on-the-attack Breen Akito Iwamoto / INPHO Akito Iwamoto / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m nowhere near the oldest on the squad so I know how they feel coming in, so having that experience and having the few years I’ve had in the bank beforehand kind of gives me the best of both worlds and I can pass on what I know as well.

“The spirits are high in camp at the moment. A few tired bodies obviously but the form is good and everyone is excited for the week and excited to have another opportunity to back up what we did last week. 

“(Monday) was our ‘back in business’ day. We spent Sunday kind of looking back through the game and today (Monday) we put a bit of a plan in place for the weekend, learned a few things we can do better.

“Obviously Japan are going to come back fighting so we want to play smart as well. We kind of tried to manipulate a few things and the plan is place now, so all we can do is build on that and try keep it going throughout the week.” 

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