'We achieved two wins from three which was our target. We know where we need to be better'

Ireland will now prepare for their World Cup qualifiers after finishing third in the Six Nations.

IRELAND’S SENE NAOUPU reflects on her side’s Six Nations campaign as one where they be content with winning two out of their three fixtures after a six-month layoff.

amee-leigh-murphy-crowe-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-teammates Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ireland celebrate after an Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe try against Italy. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Adam Griggs’ side was forced to endure different setbacks and delays in 2021 before finally returning to competitive rugby in recent weeks. A defeat to France coupled with victories over Wales and Italy leaves Ireland in third place at the end of a reformatted Six Nations in 2021.

They’re effectively the best of the chasing pack after the French and three-in-a-row Grand Slam winners England. After living on nothing but training camps for the last six months, it’s a satisfying place to be ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.

They will now head into a six-week break before reconvening to gear up for that challenge.

“We were really grateful to get games,” Naoupu told the media shortly after Ireland’s 20-point win over Italy in their third/fourth place playoff on Saturday.

“To come away with two wins from three games after a big spell with the massive dedication from a 40-plus squad, players [and] management, we’re really pleased with this result before a six-week break.

“I would sum it up as we achieved two wins from three which was our target. We know where we need to be better at for when we come into the end of the year and the World Cup qualifiers.”

France, naturally, was Ireland’s most challenging outing in this year’s Six Nations, conceding 20 penalties in a 41-point defeat where they were outmatched in every department.

Conversely, they took Wales for seven tries and coughed up very little in Cardiff.

Ireland were certainly the superior outfit against Italy, reducing the Azzurri to just one try late in the second half while posting four tries at the other end, two of which were claimed by Amee Leigh-Murphy Crowe.

However, it wasn’t a perfect display as errors crept back into their play again at Energia Park.

“Mistakes happen,” says Dorothy Wall, who gave another towering performance in the Irish pack and helped herself to a first-half try.

“It’s how you recover from them and how we look at our own processes and go again. Errors happen, we always review it but we don’t get bogged down by it. Fine, we made mistakes but we won the game.

“Some things went our way and others didn’t. We probably grew through that period. There was huge hype around the first match and it went our way; the second match didn’t. And we finished with a win.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster but we finished on the right side of it. We have a huge 18 months ahead of us so this is a good time to look back and review what we did well, what we didn’t do well and how we can become better as a team.”

“We’ll look at that after.”

sene-naoupu-and-michela-sillari Billy Stickland / INPHO Sene Naoupu on the ball for Ireland. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Naoupu was sent to the sin-bin in the first half of the Italy game but came back to complete the rest of the 80 minutes and help her side to a convincing win.

From her perspective, “there’s no need to panic on certain things” in relation to the error-count in the squad. She also points out that they are considering all facets of their performance in order to improve going forward.

“At times, games [and] scores don’t reflect the performance. We’re building quite well in terms of today. We needed to turn a page from last week and we felt we did that in most parts. There’s certainly things, let alone the skills, from a discipline point of view that we’re well aware of that we need to be a bit better.

“Certainly, we’ve come on. I 100% believe we have the squad depth, we have quality coaching and we have the facilities with a roof over our head where we can actually practice more than we ever could before.

“We’re on a journey, we’re building. And we’ve needed these three games to execute, and to also not execute so we know where we go.

“We know where we’ve gone wrong and we know where we can be better. This championship, while it’s been a huge honour, has actually served its purpose for the next block after the six-week break for us to refocus and build again on our journey that we’re going on.”

Ireland also had to try and carve out a result without captain Ciara Griffin who went off with a HIA in the first half and was unable to return to the game. Hannah O’Connor was called upon to deputise for their leader in the back-row.

“Obviously, it’s a big blow losing your captain very early in the game but Hannah came right in and made it seamless for us,” says Wall in praise of her teammate. “She came in and absolutely smashed it.”

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