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'I’m excited to see where she can go to as a second playmaker now'

Skibbereen woman Enya Breen was highly influential for Ireland last time out.

Enya Breen was in excellent form for Ireland in the first Test.
Enya Breen was in excellent form for Ireland in the first Test.
Image: Akito Iwamoto/INPHO

AN EARLY MISSED tackle was uncharacteristic but thereafter, Enya Breen grabbed Ireland’s first Test win over Japan last weekend by the scruff of the neck.

The 23-year-old Skibbereen woman was hugely influential in Ireland’s 57-22 comeback victory, bringing creativity and cutting edge from the number 12 shirt.

Breen has played plenty of rugby at out-half and that showed in her display in Shizuoka. She was a true second playmaker for Ireland, what the Kiwis call a ‘second five-eighth.’

Breen’s contributions took some of the pressure off 18-year-old debutant out-half Dannah O’Brien and underlined how the Munster star is continuing to mature as a Test player.

Breen now has 15 caps for Ireland so she’s certainly not yet a senior figure but she has grown as a force in recent times, including with her last-gasp game-winning try and conversion against Scotland in this year’s Six Nations. 

Last weekend, she carried the ball 10 times and beat three defenders along the way as she gained nearly 50 metres, while also passing four times and offloading once, a lovely effort in the build-up to Aoife Doyle’s first-half try. Two of her passes led directly to linebreaks for team-mates, one of them being for Méabh Deely’s second-half score.

Breen’s balance of directness and distribution was central to Ireland’s victory, while her kicking skills were also important.

Ireland used Breen’s long kicking game to exit from their own half and she chalked off an impressive 254 metres with just six kicks from hand.

The aforementioned missed tackle for one of the Japanese tries will certainly have rankled with a player who holds herself to the highest standards and it was unusual for a player who appears to enjoy defending. 

enya-breen-on-the-attack Breen caused major problems for Japan. Source: Akito Iwamoto/INPHO

All in all, it was another high-quality outing for Breen. Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams says she has benefitted from being with the Ireland 7s programme but also due to her own hard work.

“Credit goes to the 7s programme,” said McWilliams yesterday. “Enya has been training in the high performance environment and it shows what we can do with players who are training daily and constantly working on catch/pass, defence, footwork, strength.

“You’re seeing a player who has benefited from that daily environment and since the Six Nations, she has been the first to arrive and last to leave every day. She is always working on the catch/pass, which was a big focus for her, and I’m loving her action.

“When players have good actions, sometimes it may not work and she will have bad days. But her action means she should have more good days. I’m really happy with her pass, how square she can pass from, thus generating more power through her hips. It’s a really hard skill to get and she has adapted quickly.

“It’s something we’re trying to do with all of our players but she manages to have it, staying square to the line, and being able to generate good power from her hips. I’m excited to see where she can go to as a second playmaker now.”

Whatever about last weekend, Breen and Ireland will be even more excited about the chance to finish out this two-Test series with another big win in Tokyo tomorrow.

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Japan will surely improve on what was a dire performance from them in the first Test and McWilliams feels Ireland will need to be better.

greg-mcwilliams-shaking-hands-with-meabh-deely-after-the-match McWilliams was pleased with last weekend's performance. Source: Akito Iwamoto/INPHO

His hope is that his players have fully recovered from their exertions in the stifling humidity of last weekend.

“There’s no doubt we went to the well last Saturday,” said McWilliams. “You’ve got a group of players into their third week of intense match prep and training. It’s hard, Saturday took a lot out of the group so it was making sure that we were smart about how we train this week.

“Ed Slattery, our S&C coach, and our medical staff have been brilliant making sure we’ve got the right ball-in-play minutes. We’ve kept them down so a lot of our learnings this week would have been off-feet to give the players an opportunity to recover.

“Last Saturday was a good day, we knew where we were. Whatever happens this Saturday, we’re going to get a lot out of it. We’re trying to build this machine moving forward so we can be very consistent in our performances.

“I’m looking at the Tokyo skyline, you’ve got to take it all in and realise how grateful I am, the players are, the staff are, to go again on Saturday.”

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Murray Kinsella

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