Stacey Flood hails elevation of Niamh Briggs to Irish role

Briggs has been added to Greg McWilliams’ international coaching ticket ahead of the forthcoming Women’s Six Nations campaign.

DUAL CODE STAR Stacey Flood has hailed the appointment of Niamh Briggs as Ireland assistant coach as an important step forward for women’s rugby on these shores.

The first player from the Grand Slam-winning squad of 2013 to take up such a role, Briggs – who was captain for Ireland’s Championship triumph in 2015 – has been recruited to Greg McWilliams’ international coaching ticket ahead of the forthcoming Women’s Six Nations campaign.

Flood is no stranger to the Waterford native, having lined out alongside her for the Ireland 7s in the past. Additionally, her sister Kim played with Briggs at 15s level during the 2018 Six Nations.

“She has a rake of experience from the past and having such good kicking technique as well, it’ll be great to get a few pointers from her. For her to share her knowledge with me – especially having played at 10 – will be great, so I’m looking forward to that,” acknowledged the Irish out-half, who is a new brand ambassador for Energia.

niamh-briggs Niamh Briggs. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Having her in is really, really good for the team and for experience in that way as well, but it’s also really good to see a woman who is coaching come in. That’s another star above her head because she knows how women think and it is different.

“She’ll have come from playing with experience and with a sense of how people are feeling. It’s great to have that leadership as well. Hopefully new leaders within the team grow into that role too.”

Back in June 2016, Briggs and Flood were both part of an Ireland 7s squad that secured a spot in the World Series by finishing third in a World Rugby Global Repechage Tournament held at UCD. In the five years that followed this achievement, milestone moments were few and far between for the women’s seven-a-side programme.

Last month’s Seville 7s presented Ireland with a golden opportunity to turn a corner, however, and Aiden McNulty’s side responded by claiming an historic silver place finish. Flood was the heart of the Irish challenge in the Spanish city and while a 17-12 final defeat to Australia denied them the top prize, the Dubliner fully appreciates the scale of their accomplishment.

“There’s a great group of girls there and we’re a bunch of rugby players which is the best thing. Everyone is looking at that common goal. To actually look back on it and say you have a world series medal, coming second out of 12, is some achievement for such a young group of girls. It’s only going to grow from there.

“It was kind of surreal in the moment because you’re taking it game-by-game but then looking back I’m wondering how we lost that final. Camping in their 22 for a long time. Obviously it’s huge for our team to make a final and sing that anthem.

“You only get to do it if you make the final. It was brilliant to do that and know we can take that next step. Make quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals and come away with a medal.”

While Flood remains a valued member of rugby’s alternative code, the seven caps she picked up throughout 2021 has grown her appetite for the international 15s game. Even though the final round of the competition clashes with a World Series event in Langford, the 25-year-old Railway Union place-kicker is expected to play a key role for Ireland in this year’s Six Nations.

Beginning with a home test against Wales at the RDS on March 26, McWilliams’ troops will later play host to Italy and Scotland at Musgrave Park (April 10) and Kingspan Stadium (April 30) respectively with away trips to France (April 2) and England (April 24) also factored into the equation.

This will be the second year in succession that the Women’s Six Nations has taken place in a standalone window – independent of the Men’s and U20s equivalents – and Flood is delighted that this format is being maintained for the 2022 edition of the Championship.

“Me personally, I love having the separate window for the Six Nations. For any spectator it would be hard to watch an U20s game and then catch a women’s game, a Leinster game and a Munster game on the one weekend. You wouldn’t really have much of a social life to be looking forward to!

“I know it’s great to have rugby on again and full crowds, but I really do think it’s beneficial for that women’s window to be separate and just have more of it on air. Give us our separation and see what we can do,” Flood added.

Ireland legend Rob Kearney joined host Seán Burke, Murray Kinsella and Eimear Considine for the first episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness. Rob ​​speaks about his most euphoric moment in a green jersey, life after retirement, a “brutal” return to the GAA pitch, and his skincare routine. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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