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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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'We need to play the game of our lives against the French'

Despite two error-strewn displays, just France stand between Tom Tierney’s side and a World Cup semi-final.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THERE WAS NO sugar coating it. And To Tom Tierney’s credit he didn’t use the win as a shield to bounce off all criticism as many coaches are wont to do.

He took it as a massive bonus, a second chance in this tournament after a performance on home soil against Japan that could easily have left Ireland firmly outside the reckoning for the semi-final berths.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said the head coach while pool pace-setters France were still in the process of dismantling Australia 48 – 0.

Those work-ons could keep us here all day, but to keep it brief they roughly boil down to three main bullet points:

  • The scrum: “We weren’t getting the hit, we allowed Japan dictate the height.”
  • Defence: Porous with tackles fluctuating wildly between lax and dangerously high.
  • Handling errors in attack: “They’re well able to do it.”

There’s the rub. Every fault we can pick out, there are many examples in recent history to counter and show Ireland executing them well. It just hasn’t happened on the big stage on home soil this week.

If you think that’s frustrating as a fan, imagine what it feels like for a player or a coach.

“There were stern words. There was a lot of reality to it,” Tierney said of the half-time scene in the Belfield changing rooms when Ireland had been beaten all over the park to go in 14 points down.

Tom Tierney talks to his team after the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We hadn’t played. Japan had played all the rugby…. but there was no point panicking. We had a job of work to do in the first 10 minutes of the half, we spoke about what we needed to do and tidy up.

“The girls were disappointed, but they were fully sure that if they performed and got themselves back in the game they’d be fine.”

24 unanswered points did the trick and allowed the head coach to close off what he calls the first stage of the tournament with two wins from two – eight points out of 10 – before we hit what is effectively a straight knock-out phase from here on in.

Tierney expects no injuries to hamper his squad for Thursday’s tournament-defining meeting with France. The physical trio of Jenny Murphy, Marie Louise Reilly and Heather O’Brien all sat outside yesterday’s match after starting the win over Australia, but Tierney feels confident that they will be fit for France and potentially beyond.

“It’s a five-match tournament with four days in between matches, you have to rotate.

“Some bodies can handle five games, some some bodies won’t. That was the idea behind the first two games; you go and hopefully get yourself through two matches – not as tightly as that – and then you go all out for the third game which is a cup final.

“At the end of the day: we win a match against France, and put in a good performance, we’re into a semi-final. The hassles, the worries, regrets and reliefs from the first two games are forgotten about. We’ve a great opportunity. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves and we won’t. There’s relief, now there’s going to be a hard, steely mindset going to the match on Thursday.

Ireland hold up a Japanese maul Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We got out of jail, without a shadow of a doubt. Sometimes it’s brilliant to get out of there. We won’t worry too much about it because it’s in the past. What we’ve to do is rectify key areas, get the girls up.

“We need to make sure we play the game of our lives against the French. The French are going to be brilliant. Thy’re going to have a point to prove because we turned them over in Donnybrook in the Six Nations. We’ll get our heads right tonight for tomorrow and then it’s all systems go for Thursday.”

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‘We’re not making any excuses. We didn’t play well and we’ve got a lot of work to do’

Fitzpatrick helps Ireland flick the switch and more talking points after problematic win over Japan

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Sean Farrell

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