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'She was The Name I knew growing up and to be coached by her is really exciting'

Niamh Briggs has made a big impression in the Ireland coaching set-up thus far.

Ireland assistant coach Niamh Briggs.
Ireland assistant coach Niamh Briggs.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND DUO DOROTHY Wall and Aoibheann Reilly have both hailed the impact of Niamh Briggs as assistant coach ahead of the Six Nations.

The Ireland and Munster legend was added to Greg McWilliams’ ticket in February, and has made a big impression thus far.

Briggs won 62 caps for Ireland and was an integral part of two Six Nations title-winning sides — including one as captain — and the 2010 and 2014 World Cup squads, working under McWilliams back then when he was assistant coach to Philip ‘Goose’ Doyle.

Now, the Waterford native is working alongside him, and the addition of the 2013 Grand Slam winner has been huge.

“It’s so exciting,” Wall said this afternoon. “I remember Briggsy saw me at my first tournament for school in Rockwell and she was asking me where I was going and what I was doing and this sort of stuff.

“At that stage, I thought I was a back, but sure she knew I wasn’t a back at all!

“She’s kind of The Name. She was The Name I knew growing up. She was The Name I knew that represented Irish women’s rugby at that stage and now, to be coached by her is really exciting and it’s really huge that she can bring the experience she had and the skill, game knowledge and the understanding of women’s rugby and teach us.”

Reilly — who will make her debut against Wales on Saturday at the RDS [KO 4.45pm, live on Virgin Media One] — likewise, looked up to Briggs as a youngster, and mentioned that while lauding McWilliams and his staff.

“The management team has been great. They’re letting us just play and be really excited about the games. Working with Niamh has been amazing because I would have watched her play when I was younger, and she just has so much knowledge of the game.

“Because she was a back as well, it’s just been really great to work with her. They just let us play and show what we can do on the pitch.”

Nichola Fryday follows in Briggs’ footsteps having been named the new Ireland captain this week, filling the void left by Ciara Griffin who retired in late 2021.

And Wall welcomed the new skipper, after she was unveiled in a meeting this week with her family watching from afar.

nichola-fryday Nichola Fryday in training this afternoon. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

“Ah sure, she’s the best,” Wall smiled. “They had her parents on FaceTime. I was actually sitting beside her, I could see her two parents with half their faces chopped off [on screen] ready to see her! It was so emotional.

“Nic’s a great person. There’s no box that she doesn’t tick, in terms of her line out expertise – it’s next level – and in terms of her work-rate. She is the player that does the unseen work on the pitch. She’s ticking every box, she knows exactly where she’s meant to be and she’s had the hard times.

“She’s been dropped, she’s been there for all of that, she can empathise with every player’s situation, which I think is so important for a captain, and she’s just a really genuine person who we can all get behind in terms of her work-rate, how much this means to her, how much she’s given up for it. She’s just great, I’m her number one fan.”

With an exciting blend of youth and experience in the XV and a new chapter highly anticipated, the entire focus is on the visit of Wales on Saturday.

The Irish were big winners when the sides locked horns in the competition last year, but things are very different now as the Welsh prepare for the World Cup that Ireland missed out on, with new professional structures in place.

“Wales have always been a great team,” as Sevens star Reilly pointed out. “They’re very physical, they’re a tough team, it’s not going to be an easy game and we just have to be ready for that. They have physicality and speed, so we’re just going to have to be prepared for that. It’s going to be a tough game.

“I would have came across Jazz [Joyce] on the World Series, so I know what she’s like, I know she can be rapid. We’re obviously aware of that, so we just have to watch her.”

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Emma Duffy

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