No more excuses for Ireland Women - they need to start getting the results

Captain Ciara Griffin says ‘you can talk as much as you want but actions give you answers.’

WE’VE HEARD FOR a few years now how Ireland Women are bringing through some exciting young players, how it’s going to take time for them to build their game understanding, how Adam Griggs’ side are slowly developing.

All of these things may well be true but this Ireland squad also understand that the time for looking to the future is over. 2020 is a year when they absolutely need to start getting the results.

ciara-griffin Billy Stickland / INPHO Ireland captain Ciara Griffin at Wednesday's Six Nations launch. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

In September, Ireland will face Scotland, Italy and one other European side in a qualifying competition for a place at the 2021 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.

Having been at every World Cup since 1991, missing out would be a damaging sign of Irish women’s rugby standing still while other nations move ahead. Getting to New Zealand is pivotal and, therefore, building momentum and belief in the upcoming Six Nations will be important. 

Home games against Scotland, Wales, and Italy mean Ireland have a prime opportunity to bag three wins and move beyond the memories of last year’s championship, when Griggs’ side lost four games and finished fifth.

After playing England in front of a record 4,637 crowd at Donnybrook last season, Ireland will be hopeful of more strong support again this year.

They have excellent established players like captain Ciara Griffin, fullback Eimear Considine, centre Sene Naoupu and front row Leah Lyons. There are emerging stars like Enya Breen and Dorothy Wall. 

Ireland Women are now training at the IRFU’s high-performance facility at the Sport Ireland Campus in Abbotstown.

“It’s a world away from what we’ve had before,” says Griggs. “Just having the facilities there, it’s actually given us more time together. We’re able to have camps Friday, Saturday, Sundays now, where we used to have to go back-to-back on a Saturday and Sunday. 

adam-griggs-and-ciara-griffin Dan Sheridan / INPHO Griggs and Griffin with the Six Nations trophy. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Even something as small as the girls lifting together, so they’re always in the gym together on a Friday evening and the same with the skills on the indoor pitch. So we’ve been able to top up their skill level, the conditioning, everything on that side has made it so much easier for us.”

Ireland, who beat Wales in a training game in Cardiff last weekend, have also brought in a sports psychologist, Niall O’Donoghue, to work with the players.

“He helps the group dig a little bit deeper into how they lead and make sure that together they are working off the same page because everyone leads in different ways, but if we can bring that together, I think the whole group will get the benefits,” explains Griggs.

While Ireland’s players don’t have the professional contracts that their English counterparts have, or that 10 Scotland players now have, they understand that looking for excuses for not winning – or hearing others do it on their behalf – isn’t acceptable.

Irish women’s 15s rugby would certainly benefit from more investment from the IRFU, but merely shrugging the shoulders if they don’t win their three home games this season would do no one any good. Patronising words about steady progress are useless too.

“No excuses,” is how captain Griffin puts it. “I’m a big one for you can talk as much as you want but actions give you answers. So we have to perform, we have to improve on last year.

“We’ve three home matches. We have to target those matches, obviously you want to win those and then you’ve two away matches, so you never know.

“Rugby’s a very strange thing in that any team can win on the day but it’s up to us that we can control the controllables and put ourselves in with a chance that we can be the victors any day.”

ireland-dejected-late-in-the-game Tommy Dickson / INPHO Ireland suffered an agonising defeat to Wales in their November Test last year. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Griggs and Griffin both stressed that Ireland are focusing fully on the Six Nations, rather than planning too far ahead for the qualifying competition in September.

Head coach Griggs feels Ireland are in their best position since he came into the fold in November 2017 after the miserable home World Cup.

“Post the last World Cup, there’s been a cycle of new players and we’ve had those players now for a couple of seasons, so we’re really looking for those to step up in performance – they know what it’s about.

“We’ve got five new caps in the overall squad but compared to the last two seasons, I think for one there was about eight to nine, and last year it was six to seven, so now they’ve got some experience, they know what it’s about and how tough it is.

“I think we’re in a good place and hopefully some results will show that.” 

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