Ireland's Sam Monaghan at the final whistle. Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

'We're disappointed we haven't shown up in the first game of this tournament'

Ireland Women head coach Adam Griggs believes his side are much better than they showed against Spain.

IRELAND WOMEN HEAD coach Adam Griggs says his players must retain belief in their ability as they look to bounce back from a shock defeat to Spain in their opening game of the 2021 World Cup Qualifier tournament in Italy.

A late Spanish try earned them an 8-7 win over Ireland, who were the pre-game favourites and now face a major challenge in turning their fortunes around with games against hosts Italy and Scotland to come over the next two weekends.

The winner of this Qualifier tournament advances directly into next year’s delayed World Cup in New Zealand, while the second-placed team gets a final shot in another qualification tournament that will also feature Samoa, Colombia, and an Asian side.

Ireland’s setback against Spain is a big one but Griggs is backing his team to deliver much better showings against Italy and Scotland.

“If you’ve followed this team for the last 18 months, that performance was well below par and well below where we’ve come from,” said Griggs post-match. “That’s where we’re disappointed, that we haven’t shown up in the first game of this tournament.

“But you look at our form from the Six Nations only five months ago and even the previous Six Nations before that, we know we’re far better than the performance we put out there today. 

“We’ve played Italy twice in the last two Six Nations and we’ve been able to beat them twice, so we have to look at the positive side of that. We have history there where we have been able to grind out wins.

“It comes back to not turning up today and it could cost us in the long run of this tournament, but we’ve got to take each game as it comes in this tournament.”

the-ireland-team-huddle-after-the-game Ireland must bounce back against Italy on Sunday. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

Griggs said he and his coaching staff will review how Ireland prepared for this clash with Spain, the content of their warm-up in Parma, and their tactics on the night as they seek improvement.

He highlighted missed chances, handling errors, breakdown problems, and set-piece frustrations as being particularly damaging, but stressed the need to look forward. 

“We can’t dwell on it too much,” said Griggs. “What is in our hands is making sure we go out and try to beat Italy with a good scoreline, try to get bonus points, and then back that up again in the last week. Ultimately, that’s all we can take care of.”

Griggs said impressive out-half Stacey Flood was replaced in the second half due to cramp, while try-scoring wing Beibhinn Parsons was “cramping slightly” but the decision to replace the Connacht flyer had been a tactical decision.

“If you look at the result, it unfortunately didn’t,” said Griggs of how Ireland’s use of their bench worked out as they gave up the lead in the 71st minute.

The Ireland head coach acknowledged that Ireland’s preparation for the Italy game will now be as much a mental challenge as anything after this defeat in their opening game.

“There’s no doubt that when you go through a week of preparation after a loss, it’s very different to a win,” said Griggs.

“We’ve spoken about winning the training week, that’s important for us.”

Winning on the pitch against Italy on Sunday is the most crucial thing of all.

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