Fighting Irish

'We're going out there to win and we will win. That's our attitude'

There’s a nice Laois flavour to the Ireland Women as they gear up for a huge clash in Scotland tonight.

THREE DAYS AFTER enduring a gut-wrenching 44-point defeat to England, the mood is surprisingly upbeat in the Ireland Women’s camp.

The Ireland team during the National Anthems The Ireland Women stand for the National Anthem last week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Delete and move on,” as rising star Emma Hooban said. Scrum coach Mike Ross would rather focus on the positives, and returning veteran Alison Miller is well aware of how essential it is for her side to bounce back against Scotland tonight [KO 7.35pm, live on RTÉ 2].

“100%,” the influential winger nods. “We’re going out there to win and we will win. That’s our attitude. We will win if we perform well.

“We have to perform, you’re not just guaranteed a win. It’s a very big game. It’s a hugely important game to bounce back.”

It’s quite fitting that Laois duo Miller and Hooban are on media duty together considering their history. They go way back with the 34-year-old winger — making her first Irish start for Adam Griggs’ side a year since a horrific leg-break — having coached 21-year-old Hooban at Portlaoise Rugby Club when she was 12.

That adds a bit more life to the situation, despite the already upbeat nature of the Monday night press conference in the Sandymount Hotel.

“She’s kind of like my OAP!” Leinster hooker Hooban grins in her interview, noting how special it is being in the same international set-up now. They both start this evening at Scotstoun, so it will be a particularly proud moment for the people of Laois seeing them side by side in the green jersey.

“She gives me an awful time, Emma, she tells me that I’m old!” Miller laughs when their bond is brought up in her own round of questioning, and there’s a bit of friendly abuse traded between the two.

Mairead Coyne and Alison Miller with Rhona Lloyd Ali Miller facing Scotland in 2017. Craig Watson / INPHO Craig Watson / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s great to see someone like that,” the 2013 Grand Slam winner adds. Serious face on.

“In 2010 I actually did a very serious knee injury and I was out of the game. I decided that our club needed young girls so myself and two other girls set up an underage team. Emma had played with the boys up until whatever age, 12? She joined us.

“She always had huge ability, a great skill level and always had a good attitude. To see her come through all the way, play Leinster U18, go on and then play Leinster senior, get capped in November…

“I was actually very proud of her because you’ve seen her come all the way. Even if she does give me a hard time!”

While, regardless of the result, it will be a special night for the duo across the water, a win is pretty much vital in this, Ireland’s second-round 2019 Six Nations clash.

With both sides having suffered heavy opening defeats — Scotland were sentenced to a 28-7 beating by Italy on home soil — they’ll have no shortage of motivation for this one as they go in search of a first win.

Ireland, though, perhaps have a little more after last year’s 15-12 loss to the Scots at Donnybrook, a first defeat to the nation in 11 championship meetings. 

“It’s going to be a big game for both teams,” Miller continues, casting her mind back on the many better results. “Both teams are going in with one defeat each.

Emma Hooban is tackled Emma Hooban makes her first start of the tournament at hooker. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“They have a very good coach, they have some very good players but we’ll be confident in our abilities. I think the one thing always about a team, if you lose a game like we did Friday, you just want to get back out there and play again.

“You just can’t wait to get out and play and rectify the mistakes that you did, and get that good flow feeling again, how the game should be played.”

Likewise, Hooban, who’s in her second year studying mental health nursing in DCU, has absolutely no doubts that Ireland can match Shelley Kerr’s Scotland hunger-wise.

“There’s a great passion and a great heart among the girls. I know the score says a lot on the weekend, but we didn’t lie down at any stage. We stayed trying to fight and fight and fight.

“I think that’s a good attribute that all the girls will bring this weekend. They’re very passionate about the game they play and we’re all fighting for each other.

“We’re still building and we are a young team, but we’ve been training very hard. Things are starting to click between us. There’s a lot to come of this team and you’ll hopefully see it now over the next couple of games.”

Anna Caplice, Miller, Hooban are the three personnel changes to the side, with other positional switches throughout, and all will be hoping to amplify the positives of last week.

The latter brings a freshness to the scrum, which was hugely encouraging last week. That’s one aspect of the game they dominated for the most part and something they’ll most definitely target again this evening.

Mike Ross Mike Ross watches on. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

While Ross was surprised to see Scotland go down to Italy, he knew on Monday evening that he needed to get his hands on the footage of that game and really asses the challenge ahead.

“We always think we can go after the scrum,” the former Leinster and Ireland prop smiles, and that’s the main thing.

“[We] definitely want to get back on track and get a win over there. We’ll both be hurting after our respective results, but I hope we’ll want it more.”

Ireland Women (v Scotland)

15. Lauren Delany (Firwood Waterloo/ IQ Rugby)
14. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/ Munster)
13. Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
12. Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/ Leinster)
11. Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/ Connacht)  
10. Nicole Fowley (Galwegians/ Connacht)
9. Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/ Leinster)

1. Laura Feely (Galwegians/ Connacht)
2. Emma Hooban (St Mary’s College/ Leinster)
3. Leah Lyons (Harlequins)
4. Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/ Leinster)
5. Nichola Fryday (Galwegians/ Connacht)
6. Anna Caplice (Richmond) 
7. Claire Molloy (Wasps)
8. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/ Munster) Capt 


16. Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird (UL Bohemian/ Munster)*
17. Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/ Leinster) 
18. Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/ Munster)
19. Claire Boles (Railway Union) *
20. Claire McLaughlin (Old Belvedere/ Ulster)
21. Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/ Ulster) 
22. Ellen Murphy (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
23. Megan Williams (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)

Following a tough Six Nations opening defeat to England, Joe Schmidt will look to regroup against a dangerous Scotland side. This week, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to assess the damage of last weekend and look ahead to the clash in Murrayfield:

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