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Ireland Women 'keeping it between the ditches' to reel in 6 Nations title

Niamh Briggs’ side must beat Scotland by a 27-point margin to claim the Six Nations title tomorrow.

IRELAND WOMEN’S RUGBY team could confound accepted sporting logic yet again on Sunday (13.00, RTE), when they aim to close the Six Nations Championship with a win over Scotland – and a trophy.

After leaders France emulated Ireland by defeating reigning world champions England in Twickenham 15 – 21, Tom Tierney’s side must defeat Scotland by a margin of more than 27 points or more to deny Les Bleus.

The task will not be easy, but nor is it insurmountable for this redoubtable group of athletes.

Tom Tierney talks to the backs Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

When Philip Doyle’s squad finished the World Cup in fourth place, many feared the curve would drift downwards. Instead, the transition period has been made a mockery of under the tutelage of new director of rugby and coach duo:Anthony Eddy and Tom Tierney.

When The42 talked with Tierney before the beginning of the Championship, he spoke in optimistic terms about ‘the next level’ for the Niamh Briggs captained team. Yet after the loss of Fiona Coghlan, Grace Davitt and Lynne Cantwell, he seemed equally as passionate about simply recruiting greater numbers to the female game.

His players have been decidedly more adamant about their short-term goals. Before a ball was kicked Briggs summed it up with four words: “win the Six Nations.” And while the rest of the nations is still lining up to slap them on the back for beating the hitherto unbeatable Black Ferns and reaching a World Cup semi-final, centre Jenny Murphy says she is still holding on to a bitterness about the way that tournament ended.

“It’s something that was there,” Tierney said this week.

“Even losing the players, there was still a core group of senior players there. You don’t have that experience and you don’t get the confidence they have from not being in those situations. That is something that has been hugely beneficial to me, but also to the players themselves.

“They lead from the front. Then the newer players coming in feed off that.”

That confidence ensures there is no sense of giddyness ahead of a game where they will chase the Championship. Though there are a few paid semi-professionals in their ranks, for the most part this is a group who are only acting pros.

“It’s all about the process; doing the right things, the execution of the basics and getting yourself into the game and the right areas of the field,” says Tierney, checking off a list in his head.

“If you are accurate and you do the right things at the right time, good things usually happen. But if you try to think a few phases down the line or you are worried about the scoreline; when you have got a lineout on your own goal line, that is when mistakes happen. Staying in the now is the critical factor. Then being able to control the emotions is the next step.”

Niamh Briggs Source: Crispin Rodwell/INPHO

That slavish devotion to processes is designed to negate pressure. Pressure such as being the last to take the field in the Championship knowing exactly what is needed. A lot of hard work has already been done England, Wales and Italy fallen by the wayside and only a floodlight failure at home to France has blotted the copybook. From here on in, as Tierney says, it’s about keeping a steady nerve. Hot feet, cool heads.

Larissa Muldoon and Nora Stapleton tackle Lauren Cattell Nora Stapleton and Larissa Muldoon prove they're no weak link in defence as Ireland upset the world champions. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We are not losing the run of ourselves. The last couple of performances have been very impressive for different reasons. We are just keeping it between the ditches now for the match on Sunday. That would be as logical and as professional as we can for the last four matches and we are taking this one on its own merits.

“England and France will have a bearing on how we go about things, but not as much as people might think. We just have to make sure we do the things we are talking about doing and get ourselves into the game against Scotland and putting them under pressure on both sides of the ball.

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Niamh Briggs talks to her team before the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“When opportunities come, we are not forcing things, we are not snatching at things. We are nice and relaxed and just do exactly what we are talking about before the game.”

Scotland

15. Chloe Rollie (Melrose)
14. Nuala Deans (Wasps)
13. Gillian Inglis (Melrose)
12. Hannah Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill)
11. Eilidh Sinclair  (Murrayfield Wanderers)
10. Lisa Martin (Murrayfield Wanderers)
9. Sarah Law  (Murrayfield Wanderers)

1. Lisa Robertson (Murrayfield Wanderers)
2. Lana Skeldon  (Melrose)
3. Tracy Balmer (Worcester)
4. Deborah McCormack (Richmond)
5. Emma Wassell (Murrayfield Wanderers)
6. Rachael Cook (Murrayfield Wanderers)
7. Karen Dunbar (RHC Cougars)
8. Jade Konkel  (Hillhead Jordanhill)

Replacements:

16. Sarah Quick (Murrayfield Wanderers)
17. Lindsey Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill)
18. Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill)
19. Fiona Sim  (Saracens)
20. Lyndsay O’ Donnell  (Worcester)
21. Mhairi Grieve (RHC Cougars)
22. Claire Bain (RHC Cougars)
23. Jenny Maxwell (Lichfield)

Ireland

15  Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemian/ Munster) (Capt)
14  Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
13 Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
12 Jackie Shiels (Richmond/ Exiles)
11 Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
10 Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
9 Larissa Muldoon (Skewen RFC)

1 Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/ Connacht)
2 Gillian Bourke (Olympico de Pozuelo RFC)
3 Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
4 Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
5 Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
6 Paula Fitzpatrick (St Marys/ Leinster)
7 Claire Molloy (Bristol/ Connacht)
8 Heather O’Brien (Highfield/ Munster)

16 Sarah Mimnagh (Wasps/Exiles)
17 Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemian/ Munster)
18 Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
19 Orla Fitzsimons (St Marys/ Leinster)
20 Katie Norris (Blackrock / Leinster)
21 Tania Rosser (Blackrock/ Leinster)
22 Sene Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht)
23 Aoife Doyle (Shannon/ Munster)

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Sean Farrell

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