Tommy Dickson/INPHO

'Until you go into the trenches you never know'

After increasingly fiery training sessions and a winter’s worth of talk, Lindsay Peat is ready to pour her all into turning Ireland’s form around.

FOR LINDSAY PEAT, tomorrow is D-Day. Come 1pm Sunday in Donnybrook, all the talking will end, the promises transform into absolutes. Either they were kept or swept away.

Through the bleak midwinter weeks leading up to the 2020 Women’s Six Nations the resounding message from Adam Griggs’ squad has emanated loud and clear: They are sick to the back teeth of losing. Sick of work-ons, signalling some unclear growth chart and sick of the outside condescension willing to brush losses under the carpet to make way for blithe positivity.

The need for results, meaningful and tangible evidence of forward steps, is crystalised too by Peat. At 39, albeit with relatively low rugby miles on the clock, there is little sense in her planning beyond the current campaign. And this season, for Ireland women, must culminate in September’s World Cup qualifier.

To peak at that point, they must begin the climb against Scotland this weekend. And after a 2019 in which Scotland were the only team they defeated, this group have poured everything in to turning their fortunes around with venomous aggression.

“You’d wanna see training,” Peat says with an exhale, “I’ve been in two fisticuffs sessions with very good friends of mine. Because you are fighting so hard for that jersey that you don’t want to give an inch, a centimetre, you don’t want to give them anything, the width of a thread.

“You don’t want to see that on the video, you want to be always going toe-t0-toe.”

Peat’s friend-turned-foes were not direct positional rivals. The scuffles broke out more organically than that against other tight five forwards in hotly-contested training sessions.

Hooker Cliodhna Moloney was one of those embroiled.

“Not the first time we were tearing lumps out of each other, won’t be the last I’m sure,” the Wasps woman says with a laugh.  But both will have their shoulder to the wheel side by side tomorrow in a pack that is deadly serious about the job ahead.

“It’s a war of attrition, survival of the fittest,” adds Peat, the veteran of basketball and inter-county football before she turned her hand to international rugby.

“It suits me, especially in the front row, it’s not for the faint-hearted. You’re in a pile of a ruck, or in a scrum it’s a war of inches and a mental battle trying to get one up on your opposition.

“You can’t have fear going in there otherwise you’re coming out the wrong side of it.”

We’ve seen over the last few weeks there has been bite to training. I’ve been involved in a few scuffles…you’re really grinding your teeth at people and growling. That’s what you need, you see it in men’s, see it in women’s, in all sport. That’s what elite teams bring, that’s what championship teams bring.”

While the prop’s words suggest promise undiluted aggression, Peat delivers them with a remarkable cool composure. Fire in the belly, ice in the veins as the saying goes. And Peat is acutely aware that the emotion that fueled the training ground skirmishes that have pushed the standards must now be channeled.

As a squad, they have put themselves through too much pain – in matches, training and open, honest review sessions that followed – to play this Test too early in the week.

“At the end of the day, we won’t know where we’re at, at the Championship level, until kick-off in the match on Sunday. That’s the frightening part.

“But the other part is we can say, ‘were in a good place, as good as we can be’.

lindsay-peat Morgan Treacy / INPHO Peat takes on a carry against Wales last year. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“We’ve had those honest reviews of ourselves of performances and (we know) what a big year it is for us. What it means to us, the Six Nations results, and going ahead to where we stand for the World Cup play-offs.

They’re not easy conversations, it’s not easy to look at yourself and go ‘we’re forever knocked down, where do we have to get to?’

“When it’s a squad in transition, there can be a little decision and if it goes your way then you’re full of confidence and you play on that. If it doesn’t go your way, then you’re lacking confidence and you play within yourselves.

“We can prepare physically, but mentally we can only do so much in training. Until you go into the trenches you never know.”

Half a league onward. The answers will come tomorrow.

The big Six Nations preview with Andy Dunne, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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