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'It's our house': Donnybrook ideal place to start massive year for Ireland Women

Three wins is the stated goal for this year’s Championship. So Ireland Women must make their home a foreboding place for opponents.

EVERY GOOD TEAM needs a place to call home. A fortress to return, or even retreat, to and consolidate when things go awry on the road.

A place players know the dimensions of intrinsically and know with certainty that they can deliver their best performance.

Donnybrook has been a home for Ireland Women since 2016 and has witnessed some great days. However, as this embattled group enter into a massive 2020 with a need to put wins on the board and build confidence to fuel their World Cup qualifier in September, home comfort becomes an absolute imperative.

anna-caplice Ireland's tone-setting back row Anna Caplice during the captain's run. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With England and France as the away days this term, the stated goal of this group is the conservative yet realistic: win all three home games.  That alone will represent valuable steps in the right direction after the a humbling 2019 in which they only managed to beat Scotland, lost to Wales home and away and suffered at the mighty hands of the more richly-resourced.

“That’s character building over the last few years. We couldn’t ask for any more character building,” said prop Lindsay Peat, half joking. Any more and they could find themselves fully walled in. So they depart from the modern sporting trope speaking only of performance. No, they need to win.

“We need a win on many levels,” continues Peat, “for confidence going into the Championship, it’s a home game, we want the crowd on our side and to show them what we can do.

To feel that support and know people are behind you, then you feel invincible, then you’re not afraid to try again. You’re not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the opposition and take the game to them.”

Peat has tasted the added benefits of a vociferous home crowd and also the weighty disappointment that comes when they are silenced. Far from the front row, wing Aoife Doyle has spent many Sunday afternoons on the other side of the hoardings roaring on women she will call team-mates today.

aoife-doyle-and-ciara-griffin Aoife Doyle with captain Ciara Griffin in training this week. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The Limerick flyer had her lot thrown in with Ireland Sevens in recent years. There she could reap the benefits of packed fixture list; multiple games, tournaments and a wealth of touches and opportunities within each.

Back in the long form of the game, she must adapt with the rest of the group to a dearth of international outings. Peat looks back on the November loss to Wales and laments the absence of a chance to issue a riposte in a second match.

“We won’t know if we have righted those wrongs until Sunday,” says the prop.

“That’s the difference for the likes of England, playing top class opposition on their summer tours. That’s where the difference is: they’re getting to put themselves (to the test) in real live games and we only have training.

“That’s not to crib, it’s just exactly (as it is). We won’t know anything until the curtain comes up on Sunday.”

The IRFU have moved to organise summer Tests so that Adam Griggs’ side can ramp up their preparations for defining September clashes. The Kiwi and his senior players alike are confident that the work done behind closed doors will serve them well. Or well enough to tackle Scotland while harnessing home advantage.

ellen-murphy Out-half Ellen Murphy will hope to create ample opportunities for her side. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

They have ‘pushed through’ the training windows where Tests ought to have been. And, with an almost clear fixture list, there has been a concerted focus on improving training standards through camps against Scotland and France.

Chief among the areas to improve is clinical consistency. Even through last year’s five defeats, there were flashes of promise and positive play each time they took the field. Too often, though, they left the field feeling as though they had shot themselves in the foot.

“We could highlight so many positive moments that we had,” said Griggs, “but ultimately we didn’t have enough of those. That consistency of play and putting teams under pressure and not getting too excited by maybe being in the 22 or close to the goal line. that’s where we’ve found we haven’t executed the best.

“We’re playing good rugby to get ourselves into good scoring opportunities, but we’ve not been able to finish off.

“That’s consistency and just having patience and it can come down to having match experience. the more they’re in a situation the more they’ll learn from it and the more they can say ‘well, we’ve been here before’.”

Coached by Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning coach Philip Doyle, today’s opponents Scotland will come to Dublin (kick-off 1pm, RTE) with a recent Test history that strikes a start contrast after they they travelled to South Africa before hosting a November Tests.

head-coach-adam-griggs Griggs during the captain's run in Energia Park yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The spur of a stand packed with partisan support could make all the difference.

“We’re under no allusions how tough they’ll be,” adds Griggs.

“But at the same time it’s our house. And we’ve got to make sure we put down a marker and show the crowd, show our supporters that all the things we’ve been working on, all the positive talk we’ve had leading into this actually goes onto the field and we get a result.

“When you have a big crowd, you can’t underestimate what it gives to the players. In terms of an extra adrenaline rush and really pushing them on.

“The support was great (last year). if you start to play really good rugby in front of that crowd then it just eggs you on to do more and more.”

Ireland: 

15. Lauren Delany
14. Aoife Doyle
13. Sene Naoupu
12. Michelle Claffey
11. Beibhinn Parsons
10. Ellen Murphy
9. Kathryn Dane

1. Lindsay Peat
2. Cliodhna Moloney
3. Linda Djougang
4. Aoife McDermott
5. Nichola Fryday
6. Ciara Griffin (Capt)
7. Edel McMahon
8. Anna Caplice

Replacements: 
16. Victoria Dabanovich O’Mahony
17. Laura Feely
18. Leah Lyons
19. Ciara Cooney
20. Dorothy Wall
21. Nicole Cronin
22. Claire Keohane
23. Laura Sheehan

Scotland: 
15. Chloe Rollie
14. Rhona Lloyd
13. Hannah Smith
12. Lisa Thomson
11. Megan Gaffney
10. Helen Nelson
9. Mairi McDonald

1. Leah Bartlett
2. Lana Skeldon
3. Mairi Forsyth
4. Emma Wassell
5. Sarah Bonar
6. Rachel Malcolm (Capt)
7. Rachel McLachlan
8. Jade Konkel

Replacements:
16. Molly Wright
17. Panashe Muzambe
18. Lisa Cockburn
19. Siobhan Cattigan
20. Louise McMillan
21. Sarah Law
22. Evie Tonkin
23. Alex Wallace

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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