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'We're stronger and better than that' - Ireland determined to put Parma heartbreak behind them

Adam Griggs’ team are back in action with a home game against the USA on Friday.

Ireland lock Nichola Fryday.
Ireland lock Nichola Fryday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE IRELAND WOMEN’S rugby team hoped to use this November window to move on from the bitter disappointment of September, where they failed to qualify for the next Rugby World Cup due to defeats to Spain and Scotland in Parma.

That landmark setback was enough baggage for any group of players to carry. During a team press conference yesterday, winger Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and lock Nichola Fryday used words like ‘grief’ and ‘heartbreak’ in describing their emotions since Parma.

To their credit, the players have been quick to hold their hands up that regard. They know they didn’t deliver, and they’re keen to make amends for that. 

Which is why Anthony Eddy’s interview earlier this week was so jarring. Not only was the interview opportunity with the IRFU director of women’s rugby oddly timed, coming the week of important home fixtures for both the women’s and men’s team, his comments took all the focus away from matters on the pitch.

Murphy Crowe and Fryday clearly didn’t enjoy answering so many questions about Eddy during yesterday’s call, but that’s the position he put the squad in, and it should be noted the pair answered every question put to them.

Following the first half of the conference, the two players then had the opportunity to reflect on the weeks post-Parma, and their hopes for the team going forward.

“It’s difficult. It was something that for 18 months we dreamt of, we just dreamt of playing at the World Cup,” Murphy Crowe said.

“We didn’t see past that, it was just our goal and we never saw anything else. It’s very raw for us, still.

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“I’m not going to lie, that (first) Monday coming in here was difficult for us. Coming back into the High Performance Centre wasn’t easy, it was the first time we’d been back here since we’d left (for Parma) and at that point all we saw in our sights was the World Cup.

“Rugby Players Ireland came in and they were really good, they offered us loads of support which was really key for the girls who needed it.

“It wasn’t an easy time, the IRFU brought in a psychologist and we’ve been working with him the last few weeks, so that’s how the IRFU have offered a hand there.”

The sorest point of it all is that Ireland didn’t leave Parma feeling like they had lost to better teams. Spain are a stronger side that some maybe gave them credit for, but Ireland know they should have won that game. 

And if Spain was a shock, the nail in the coffin result against Scotland was just gut-wrenching, Ireland beaten by a conversion with the final play of the game.

“You’ll always rise from your lowest lows,” says Fryday.

“I think as a group that’s what we’ll do. I have no doubt that we will improve and we will push on. There’s no point continually looking back at what happened and what didn’t or should have happened, we have to just put that behind us now and focus on pushing on and moving forward.

I want us to be able to put in a performance and show that we are not at the level we were at in Parma. We’re stronger than that and better than that. That’s the sole focus.”

Still, there is no ignoring that events outside the Ireland camp have provided an unwanted distraction this week.  

“Yeah, but I think that’s life,” Fryday continues. “You always have external factors that will take away from certain things that are going on in your life, but we’re all very driven individuals. We’re able to compartmentalise those sort of things and for us that focus is the USA.”

Even looking past Eddy’s intervention, this was always going to be a strange window for the squad. The games against USA and Japan will represent Adam Griggs’ final two games in charge of the group, with Greg McWilliams set to take over as head coach following the November window.

“I’ve really enjoyed having Adam as our head coach,” Fryday says.

“I think what he did with the squad, if you think about after that 2017 World Cup, that would have been a very low time for some players, and he came in and he turned it around. 

“We have progressively gotten better each season, so we do owe a lot to Adam and what he has done over the last few years. We’re very grateful for what he has brought to the team.

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“He’s improved my skillset across the pitch, definitely. He’s always encouraged us as players to play, not to feel like we have to sit within a system, to express ourselves and make sure that we use our skillset. That’s something he’s definitely brought to my game.”

amee-leigh-murphy-crowe Ireland winger Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

While both players acknowledge that this has been a challenging chapter of their careers, they also appear optimistic about the future. Murphy Crowe, who only made her 15s debut earlier this year, seems particularly bullish that Ireland are not too far off becoming the team they feel they are capable of being.

“Not far at all. I tell ya, if you dream something you’ll achieve it and that’s exactly what we’re going to do on Friday.

“We’re going to achieve what we want and go out there and perform really well. The past two weekends have been really positive, we had a blustery and windy day on Saturday, it didn’t stop us from having a good session, a good run-out.

“We’d the sunshine on Sunday which was great. We’ve got some new blood in, some young girls and they’re hopefully going to get an opportunity in this autumn window.

“We know the support is out there for us, and it’s quite exciting getting into the RDS knowing there’ll be quite a full stadium.

“It’s my first home game with a home crowd which I’m really excited about, having family and friends there is huge. It’s giving me such a boost for the week and all the girls too, having family friends around us as we play the USA.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland-Japan with the help of Japanese rugby expert Rich Freeman, while the lads also assess ‘Tier Two’ rugby two years out from the World Cup:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ciarán Kennedy

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