Ireland winger Beibhinn Parsons. Evan Treacy/INPHO
tight call

'I know the Irish people want to see her play, and you will this weekend'

Greg McWilliams has explained his decision to name Beibhinn Parsons on the bench again for Saturday’s Six Nations meeting with France.

DESPITE DEFEAT IN Dublin last weekend, Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams saw enough in his side’s performance to settle on an unchanged 23 for what looks a daunting challenge away to France this weekend.

As a result, the main talking point from his selection centres around a player who didn’t make the cut in the starting team. For the second week running, star winger Beibhinn Parsons has to make do with a place on the bench.

Ahead of the Wales game, McWilliams warned of the need to manage the Blackrock College player’s minutes carefully, Parson introduced at the 54 minute mark last weekend.

With decent minutes under her belt, there was an expectation that Parsons would step back into the starting team this weekend as Ireland gear up for what promises to be a testing challenge in the south of France, and while McWilliams outlines that she has been pushing hard for selection, he was wary of disrupting a team that showed signs of real promise in defeat to Wales.

“Look, I had a chat with Beibhinn on Monday,” McWilliams explained.

“She’s been ridiculous. She’s fully fit, she’s raring to go, but as a group we thought it was best to keep the same 23 with Bey on the bench to come off and to do some damage.

beibhinn-parsons Parsons starts on the bench again against France. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s hard for her, because if you did replace one of the back three with Bey and that was your only change from the team that played against Wales, it’s as if that one player did something that meant that things didn’t go her way. 

“So I think it’s important that you put faith in the 15, and Bey understands that completely. We’re about the team and about the squad, and Bey is just one player within the larger group of 26 for this game against France.

But she is without question, I believe, our most exciting player and she has a massive role to play with us moving forward. Not just for this Six Nations, but after the World Cup at Sevens she’s going to heavily involved with us and she is world class. 

“I know the Irish people want to see her play, and you will this weekend.”

The Ireland head coach also elaborated on his decision to stick with an unchanged 23 for the trip to Toulouse, a game which will represent just his second fixture in charge of the team since taking over from Adam Griggs.

“It’s really important that you give players an opportunity to rectify and improve,” he said. 

“I think it shows confidence in the group.  It shows that there is good cohesion. It was a tough call, decision from the group, from the players that we go again with the same, that everyone deserved that.  

“Sometimes as a coach, you make one or two changes to a team, particularly my first game in charge to my second, that can sometimes just send the wrong picture so I fully trust the group that we have to go again.”

greg-mcwilliams-and-niamh-briggs-watch-on-during-training McWilliams and assistant coach Niamh Briggs watch on during Ireland training today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland have never won in France and have acknowledged that they could be in for a difficult afternoon at the Stade Ernest-Wallon. Most of this French side – who saw off Italy last Sunday – are professional players, while many of McWilliams’ squad returned to their day jobs earlier this week before meeting back up at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre. 

There’s no escaping the fact that France are bigger and stronger than McWilliams’ new-look, relatively inexperienced squad, so Ireland will look to be smart with their approach, without deviating completely from McWilliams’ open, attacking philosophy.

It would be wrong of me as a coach if you think you are going to playing swashbuckling rugby the whole time. Rugby is a game where you need to be able to play the structured and the unstructured. There’s no doubt that we’ve focused on the unstructured and our ability to play open. We also need to have the ability to play tight, to play narrow so I think it’s one of those things, our plan and vision doesn’t change at all. 

“It’s the exact same vision that we had before Wales but we go out and understand that there are some things that we need to tidy up on in order that we are more successful.  

“We had really good support from Dave Nucifora, Paul O’Connell, John Fogarty, who helped out my coaches and did a lot of work on our prep. To have their support is great that the vision that we have is one we have full confidence in. That doesn’t change this weekend against France. No matter what the result is we are really comfortable with our process. We just got to get better and it and it’s going to take time for us to gel and link and build up our caps and cohesion.  

“Where else do you want to be, representing Ireland, you are heading over to France. Everyone thinks France are going to win and yeah, I’m just so excited to get on the plane and get going.”  

Originally published at 13.04

This week on the Front Row – The42’s new rugby podcast in partnership with Guinness – panellist Eimear Considine makes a welcome return… and she’s brought her Ireland roommate, Hannah O’Connor, along too. They chat about broken noses, tanning routines, initiation songs and balancing the Women’s Six Nations with teaching, plus how one fan named her child after Ireland winger Beibhinn Parsons! Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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