McWilliams' Ireland won't dwell on Wales defeat as focus switches to France's 'power and pace'

‘We’re going to be better and hopefully we can keep improving,’ the head coach said.

Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams and assistant coach Rob Sweeney.
Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams and assistant coach Rob Sweeney.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO


That was the general consensus after Ireland’s disappointing Six Nations opener on Saturday. In Greg McWilliams first game in charge as a new era began, Wales spoiled the party in the closing stages at the RDS, running in three late tries to finish 27-19 winners.

While the result was disheartening, there was still plenty to be positive about and McWilliams and captain Nichola Fryday stressed that in their post-match interviews.

There was no time to dwell on it; the focus switching to France immediately.

Saturday’s trip to Toulouse is certainly a daunting one. Les Blues, who opened their 2022 championship tilt with a dominant 39-6 win over Italy, will be heavy favourites; the fully-professional outfit finishing second last year, with their full-time counterparts England ahead of them.

“France have the power and they have the pace,” McWilliams outlined, agreeing that an unquestionably bigger test lies ahead. “They can play tight and narrow. They can play wide. So, I think we’ve got our homework done on France.

“We’ll obviously watch their game this weekend, We’ll look at our own performance and we’ll cleverly chose the areas we need to focus on.

“Sometime, as a coach, you can break down a game and see many areas and you have to be smart in making sure that sometimes less is more, so we’re not deviating off our process, we just need to be better in certain areas of it.

“And that’s what I keep saying to them — we need to be true to our word. I own the performance [against Wales]. The players own the performance. We’re going to be better and hopefully we can keep improving throughout the performance.”

McWilliams, Ireland’s 2013 Grand Slam-winning assistant coach and former USA number two, has been transparent with his bigger-picture, long-term view since taking the reigns.

This team’s challenges, both on and off the pitch, have been well-documented over the past few months, and he’s well aware that this is not going to be an overnight fix.

This is a squad in transition, and the rebuild is going to take some time.

“Yeah, if you want to be at the table,” McWilliams nodded. “If you want to be playing at the RDS in front of 6,000 people, we’ve got to be good enough as a group to decide what our standards are like and first and foremost, if you look at the energy which the players had and lots of their actions, as a coach, you’d be so proud of it.

“Now, it’s just a case of getting tighter and working at making sure that you’re tidier at looking after the ball, particularly when you lose momentum because when momentum goes, you’ve got to be smart about how you play until you get that momentum back.

“And the fact that we had the opportunity to have that lesson today, I’m delighted with it because it’s something now that we can tackle in France. It’s a good lesson for us. I’m just looking forward to getting back into work and improving.”

wales-players-celebrate-after-the-game Wales celebrate at the final whistle, as dejected Ireland players look on. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

His “athletic, skillful group of players” are working hard on this journey, McWilliams insists, and learning as they go.

A huge emphasis has been put on the basics, and that shone through — particularly in the first half — against Wales. That said, they faded late on, particularly when reduced to 14 with Eimear Considine in the sin-bin.

“Everything we do is trying to get our players to train under fatigue and under stress to back themselves to make a good decision with the ball and then execute it effectively,” the head coach continued.

“I think decision-making when we were tired probably dropped a little bit, to be honest with you. So, we need to be sharper around how our leaders and shot-makers are guiding the team around the park.

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“I was really impressed with the skill level. I thought our execution was good at times. Without looking back over the footage, I think you have to be proud about the moments that we did show.

“You’re hoping that we can show more of them because I think the more we do that and the more consistent we get playing in those shapes, the better we’re going to be and the harder we will be to defend.”

“First and foremost, the one thing we wanted was for the players to express themselves, to have confidence and the skill,” he later added.

“We saw that today and if we learn nothing else, at least the players can see that they have got the ability to now really work on it, hone on it, and become better.”

McWilliams has since confirmed that Lucy Mulhall is “all good” since her HIA, while captain Fryday announced her full fitness after the match despite appearing to sustain a knock.

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:

Source: The42/SoundCloud

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Emma Duffy

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