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Ireland look to defence for next building block against France

The attack functioned for Adam Grigg’s side in the loss to Italy, but against the formidable French Ireland will have to pick their battles.

AS OPPORTUNITIES TO bounce back after historic defeat go, the platform ahead of Ireland Women tonight (kick-off 19.00) looks less like a springboard and more like an unforgiving slab.

Round three saw Adam Griggs’ side embroiled in a terrifically-entertaining to-and-fro battle against an impressive Italy side, whose combination of attacking width and explosive carriers found more than a few holes in Ireland and delivered a first-ever win for the Azzurri over Ireland.

Adam Griggs Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We really felt like we ended up beating ourselves,” said Griggs with defensive issues still on his mind before this week’s preparations really ramped up.

“A good attacking team like Italy, we just let them in the game. It really came down to a lot of our defence. There were some system errors, but at the end of the day, one-on-one tackles probably cost us as well.

“Even if we were making the tackles, at the moment we just tended to soak, we’re not getting off the line quick enough.”

With centre Michelle Claffey forced out injured, UL Bohs’ Enya Breen will be among those tasked with setting a firm defensive line while she makes her international debut in the centre against France in Donnybrook this evening.

In the pack, former centre Claire McLaughlin plays at number 8, flanked by Ciara Girffin and former skipper Claire Molloy. But Griggs has been forced into a late change in the second row as Aoife McDermott steps in for the injured Juliet Short.

With a debut in the centre and Derbhile nic a Bhaird earning her first start, Griggs can at least take solace that there is depth being built. While he does not have his full complement of proven front-liners available, he is intent on developing some as he gets set to cross the 30-mark of players used in the Championship.

Sene Naoupu Sene Naoupu during the captain's run. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“You can’t give them Test match experience in front of bigger crowds without letting them go in there and feel it for themselves. Even if it’s not in the next year, two years, five years probably before you start to see the fruits of the labours that we’re putting in at the moment, when those players are up around the mid 20, 30 caps and our 20-odd caps are up around 60, 70. Hopefully that will be the succession plan.”

There may well be some tough days along the road to that point, but even in defeat to Italy, Ireland delivered some excellent moments in attack to give plenty to build hope around. The cross-field kicking accuracy of Nicole Fowley, and Eimear Considine’s fielding of them, was a potent weapon that will stretch the best of teams. And the service for Fowley from scrum-half Kathryn Dane was consistently smooth, quick and accurate.

“There’s a reason she played the full 80,” Griggs says of Dane, “it also gave Nicole a lot more time on the ball, she got to see those decisions, the likes of the cross-field kick.

“Those two are a great example of giving them time in the saddle, I suppose, and letting them steer the team around. Now they’re starting to grow into that more and more.”

Growth is what it’s all about for Ireland now and no jersey today offers more future potential than number 23.

17-year-old Beibhinn Parsons is among the replacements after Megan Williams withdrew through injury. The Ballinalsoe woman made her international bow as a 16-year-old in November, and her power could be a vital weapon in Ireland’s back-line for some time to come.

Beibhinn Parsons Beibhinn Parsons on the run in November. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“We’re a young group and I think what we’re seeing at the moment is that we’re starting to do some things really well, but then there’s just that inconsistency of backing it up with some of the smaller details,” says the Kiwi head coach.

“Our message this week is: ‘you’ve got to be expecting the unexpected’.

“We go back to talking about scrambling and adapting, and problem-solving on the move – that’s going to be a big thing for us this week.

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“We’ve definitely got a couple of spots where we think we can exploit them. We’ve got to make sure we focus on that and try and get that right.

“We’re at home. We want to come out and start well. If we can start well and get ourselves into the game, you just never know.”

Ireland Women

15. Lauren Delany
14. Eimear Considine
13. Enya Breen
12. Sene Naoupu
11. Alison Miller
10. Nicole Fowley
9. Kathryn Dane

1. Laura Feely
2. Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird
3. Fiona Reidy
4. Aoife McDermott
5. Nichola Fryday
6. Ciara Griffin (Capt)
7. Claire Molloy
8. Claire McLaughlin


16. Emma Hooban
17. Lindsay Peat
18. Linda Djougang
19. Anna Caplice
20. Claire Boles
21. Nicole Cronin
22. Ellen Murphy
23. Beibhinn Parsons

France Women

15. Jessy Trémoulière
14. Caroline Boujard
13. Yolane Yengo
12. Gabrielle Vernier
11. Ian Jason
10. Pauline Bourdon
9. Yanna Rivoalen

1.  Lise Arricastre
2. Caroline Thomas
3. Clara Joyeux
4. Celine Ferer
5. Audrey Forlani
6. Gaelle Hermet (Capt) 
7. Columba Diallo
8. Romaine Ménager

Replacements: :

16. Laure Touye
17. Mailys Traore
18. Chloe Pelle
19. Laetitia Bobo
20.Fiona Lecat
21. Emma Coudert
22. Camille Imart
23.Marine Ménager

Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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