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Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 27 October 2020

Set-piece, structure and incessant work-rate critical for Ireland in home World Cup opener

The Wallaroos will carry a direct threat and no little pedigree into UCD tonight, but all Irish cylinders are primed to fire.

Ireland v Australia, Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool c, kick-off 7pm, RTE

‘THIS IS THE game we’ve waited almost three years to play,” said captain Claire Molloy yesterday, succinctly summing up the intense focus and motivation Ireland carry within them approaching a home World Cup.

For four months, this squad have been training morning, night and weekends, many around their day job, with the single goal of peaking for this tournament. For long before that, it will have been on their minds, but at the forefront of all the IRFU’s support structures and programmes for the women’s game. It’s big.

The squad ambled across campus in small groups as the sun set on UCD last night, quietly chatting and joking on their way to pick up their matchday jerseys from the President Michael D Higgins.

Outwardly, they are doing a fine job of disguising any lingering eve-of-battle nerves. Inwardly, the nervous energy must live on, as it does for all big games, but along with it each player will replay their roles and duties within a well-rounded Ireland gameplan.

“I’ve spoken in circles before,” says Molloy, deftly underplaying the significance of the captaincy bestowed on her.

“I’ve got to do my role on the pitch. I haven’t had a title, but that’s how I’ve led, my game. I’ve got to fight to make sure that’s what I do. Facing off against their captain (Shannon Parry), I want to cancel her out and that would be massive for the team.”

Against a powerful and direct Australian side, Ireland will place a massive onus on the breakdown with Ashleigh Baxter selected at blindside to provide a twin-seven threat after the contact.

The Wallabies will relish those collisions, and uncapped out-half Trilleen Pomare will surely trust her big carriers to truck up and attempt to test the patience of the home team and the home support.

“It’s a quality back row that we have that are going to be on that ball all day and are going to be around the field all day and that’s the type of game we want to play: High intensity, high-tempo game on both sides of ball,” said Tierney

Australia are a proud rugby nation, however the Wallaroos have taken their eye off the 15-a-side game in recent years, playing only two Tests between the 2014 World Cup and three June internationals. Yet the longer they remain in the contest with Ireland, the bolder they will grow with the pedigree of Olympic gold medal-winning Sevens in harness.

Marie-Louise Reilly in the line-out with Paula Fitzpatrick and Lindsay Peat Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The selection of Paula Fitzpatrick in the second row, means Ireland have four recognised back rows starting and Sevens talent of their in the back-line. The hosts certainly have mobility to counter-act the Australian threat and take advantage of the hard August track, but also a well-drilled pack and structure to strangle them.

If there was one big lesson to be yielded from Australia’s June defeats to Canada, New Zealand and England, it’s that their set-piece can be undermined. That’s where the contest will be decided and second row Marie Louise Reilly is primed to be in the thick of it.

“We pride ourselves on our scrum and line-out ability. We will look to try and gain an advantage there tomorrow.”

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins gets presented a jersey by Ireland captain Claire Molloy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

From a sure footing, Tierney will hope to see Larissa Muldoon and Nora Stapleton supplying Sene Naoupu and Jenny Murphy to ask a variety of questions from a green and gold defence that is equipped with everything bar experience in dealing with Test rugby attacks.

Tierney cites a philosophy of expansive rugby at the core of what he brings to this Ireland squad, but there must be a strong pillar of pragmatism through tonight’s performance in order to seriously pressure Australia.

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“Obviously we ant to play in the right positions, we need to play a certain way depending on the weather, but we want to express ourselves.”

They’ve been waiting for a chance exactly like this.

IRELAND: Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster); Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Ulster); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht) (capt), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster).

Replacements: Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht).

AUSTRALIA: Samantha Treherne (Queensland/Sunnybank); Nareta Marsters (Queensland/Sunnybank), Kayla Sauvao (Sydney/Parramatta), Sharni Williams (Australia Sevens/ACT/Canberra Royals), Mahalia Murphy (Australia Sevens/NSW/Campbelltown); Trilleen Pomare (Western Australia/Wanneroo), Katrina Barker (NSW Country/Newcastle University); Liz Patu (Queensland/Wests), Cheyenne Campbell (Queensland/Redlands), Hilisha Samoa (Queensland/Brothers), Chloe Butler (South Australia/Parramatta), Millie Boyle (ACT/Canberra Royals), Mollie Gray (Australian Defence Force/NSW/Maitland), Shannon Parry (Australia Sevens/Queensland/Redlands) (capt), Grace Hamilton (Sydney/Sydney University).

Replacements: Emily Robinson (Sydney/Warringah), Violeta Tupuola (ACT/Canberra Royals), Hana Ngaha (Queensland/Sunnybank), Rebecca Clough (Western Australia/Cottesloe), Alisha Hewett (Australian Defence Force/Queensland/GPS), Fenella Hake (Queensland/Redlands), Sarah Riordan (Australian Defence Force/Victoria/Melbourne Unicorns), Ashleigh Hewson (Sydney/Sydney University).

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Sean Farrell

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