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'High performance breeds high performance,' as Griggs' Ireland aim to follow suit and go two from two
Donnybrook’s Energia Park hosts the clash with familiar foes Wales this afternoon.

AFTER THE IRELAND U20s and Andy Farrell’s men recording brilliant wins over Wales across the weekend, it’s over to Adam Griggs’ side in Donnybrook this afternoon to make it three from three.

the-ireland-team-warm-up Bryan Keane / INPHO The Ireland Women at yesterday's captain run. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

They’ll be more concerned about going two from two in their own Six Nations tilt, however, after an opening 18-14 win over Scotland this day last week.

Familiar foes Wales come to town this time. Same time [KO 1pm, RTÉ 2], same place.

“Two teams that know each other fairly well from the autumn,” as new defence coach Kieran Hallett said earlier this week, from the team’s base at the IRFU high performance centre in Abbotstown.

“Obviously the warm-up game as well, but we treat it as any other game. We do our due diligence in terms of analysing the game against Italy that they played [Wales lost 15-19]. We’re fully aware that they pose a lot of physical threats.

“Their offload game is very strong and when they’re on the front foot, their attack is incredibly dangerous. From a defence point of view for us, we’re going to have to be on our game to make sure we’re in it.”

The Celtic cousins met twice in the off-season. Wales came out on top, albeit at the death, in their November Test in Belfield, while Ireland triumphed behind closed doors across the water in recent weeks. But this is the one that really matters.

We say last year’s dismal Six Nations is in the past, but victory for Ireland today would well and truly put it in the rear-view mirror in a massive 2020 which holds all-important World Cup qualifiers.

It was 24-5 in Cardiff last year, as the curtain came down on Ireland’s miserable Six Nations campaign. Their only win came against Scotland, meaning they’re the only nation Ireland have beaten in a Test match since Wales in February 2018.

February 2020. Time for change, with Griggs’ side targeting three home wins at their fortress in Donnybrook’s Energia Park.

This week, Munster star Eimear Considine returns from injury to take the 15 jersey in her first appearance of the campaign, Leinster teenager Judy Bobbett makes her Six Nations debut while Claire Keohane is handed a first start at out-half having come off the bench for her first international 15s cap last week.

Both Keohane — who comes in for the injured Ellen Murphy — and highly-regarded flanker Anna Caplice spoke during the week of the importance of playing expansive rugby, so that’s one sure key focus today as they look to step up in performance.

claire-keohane Tommy Dickson / INPHO Keohane starts at 10 today. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“For me as a 10, it’s about my distribution and being able to facilitate the girls around me,” Cork native Keohane noted when asked about skills she’s taken over from her playmaker role in Sevens.

“My view as a 10 is it’s all about facilitating those players around you, putting them in space and using their skill sets to the best of their ability… being able to spot space as best as I can and being able to distribute the ball.”

“Is it the most important position on the field? I would more so argue that the players around you often, as a 10, make you look better than you are,” she added when questioned on slotting into her position this weekend.

“It is about everyone being on the same page and putting in that performance. We’ve such clarity in our roles at the moment and you could see it in the first half against Scotland. We put in fantastic passages of play for about 20-25 minutes. You would be looking to build on that.”

After learning from the disappointment in their last-gasp November loss to the Welsh, “getting what we wanted” from the uncapped January rendezvous, and being “satisfied” with the majority of last week’s showing, her fellow Cork woman Caplice also wants more.

Hallett spoke about it yesterday. About the need to stretch their opening 15, 20-minute blitz out to 60 and 70 minutes. To a more complete performance.

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And that starts with Wales today.

Caplice agrees. And stresses the importance of playing expansively, and creating an attacking platform in the wide channels.

“It’s definitely a combo of both,” she acknowledged. “Scotland stepped up, waking up and ourselves settling in a bit too much. Maybe it was because it was a nervy start. We were happy to get on the front-foot and just relaxed into it maybe.

“We’ve reviewed lots of aspects, but I think releasing our wingers, giving them a bit more to do this weekend [will be crucial]. We’ve some brilliant players on the wing.

“To release them and give them a bit more time on the ball, will get us hopefully on the front foot and hopefully continue that good stretch throughout the first half into the second half and close out the game fully.”

Hallett was confident in the work they’ve done on the scum, on their attacking and defensive systems and their aim to reduce the penalty count — “ours were particularly for hands in the ruck and not rolling away; two things that are very easily controllable.”

Control the controllables.

a-view-of-training Tommy Dickson / INPHO A view of training in the high performance centre. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

They’ll be looking to do just that, and see their hard work from during the week in Abbotstown pay off in front of a much bigger audience across the city.

As they look to follow on with the winning ways of their high performance training partners in Noel McNamara’s U20s and Farrell’s side.

“A fabulous facility, you literally have everything you need at your fingertips,” Railway Union’s Keohane nods. “The 20s boys are in, both the Sevens squads, the senior men; that’s our home for a number of months.

“High performance breeds high performance and it’s fantastic to be in that environment and have that exposure. Each team will bring something different and you’ll learn and grow from each other.”

Abbotstown may be their home, but Donnybrook is their fortress. All eyes on two from two.

Ireland (v Wales)

15. Eimear Considine
14. Lauren Delany
13. Sene Naoupu
12. Michelle Claffey
11. Beibhinn Parsons
10. Claire Keohane
9. Kathryn Dane

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


16. Victoria Dabanovich O’Mahony
17. Laura Feely
18. Anne-Marie O’Hora
19. Ciara Cooney
20. Dorothy Wall
21. Nicole Cronin
22. Larissa Muldoon
23. Aoife Doyle.

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