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'Any day you get to play against the world champions is a good day' - Briggs

The Ireland captain is keen to restore pride at Ashbourne as England arrive.

IRELAND HAVEN’T GIVEN up hope of Six Nations triumph this year, despite defeat at home to France in round two.

Niamh Briggs’ side welcome England to Ashbourne RFC this evening [KO 19.30] with steely determination to get their campaign back on track after the disappointment of the 10-5 loss to the French.

Niamh Briggs talks to her team Briggs speaks to her teammates before the France clash. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

UL Bohemians fullback Briggs admits to lingering frustration over the indiscipline in Ireland’s performance against France, but underlines that Tom Tierney’s charges are still focused on a Six Nations title.

“Obviously we’re bitterly disappointed to lose to France,” says Briggs.”Not because of the manner of the loss, but also because we were at home. Every time we step out at Ashbourne, we firmly believe we’re going to win.

“When you don’t, it’s bitterly disappointing, but I definitely believe this championship is still there for the taking. It’s wide open and if we can get a result against England, we’re very much back in the frame.”

The last time these sides met, England scorched to a comprehensive win in the semi-finals of the World Cup. Led by out-half Katy McLean, who has been reinstated as captain for this evening’s clash, the English went on to claim glory in the final.

Both set-ups have welcomed new faces into the fold since that competition, but Briggs says not too much has been altered.

They’re going through a little bit of change as well, but none more so than us. They still have the exact same management, bar [ex-head coach] Gary Street, but Nicky Ponsford is in there now, she’s always been with them.

“Any day you get to play against the world champions is a good day, because you grow up wanting to play in the biggest games and you want to pit yourself against the biggest teams. This is it, the perfect opportunity for us to right the wrongs against France.”

Last time out at Ashbourne, the lights went out on Ireland’s efforts to beat the French, quite literally. Floodlight failure meant lengthy delays during the game, an occurrence that has led to even more calls for Ireland to play future home games elsewhere.

Niamh Briggs Source: James Crombie/INPHO

However, Briggs says the delays against France had little impact on the players themselves.

“You know what? We never really let it affect us and I definitely don’t think we can use it as an excuse at all, because when they went off the first time everyone just said, ‘It is what it is, it’s fine.’ Tom and the lads were brilliant.

“The girls got into their little groups and there was no major upset. We went back out, it happened again, we came back in and Claire Molly, our resident DJ, banged on the music.

We brought it right back down, then with the five-minute count [before the match restart], we brought it back up again. So it is what it is. It’s something we’ve never experienced before, but I don’t think it’s something that affected us too much.”

A repeat is unlikely this evening, and those who make the visit to Ashbourne will be treated to an international match of the utmost quality.

On a personal level, Briggs is still feeling the excitement that her announcement as captain this season originally brought.

“Definitely,” says the Waterford native. “I think it’s something that doesn’t happen very often, getting to represent Ireland too. So I’m still delighted and it’s been a bit of a roller coaster start to the campaign, but there are a lot of positives to take from it.

“That’s definitely the mindset we’re taking going into England.”

Ireland

15. Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemian/ Munster, captain)
14. Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
13. Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
12. Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/ Leinster)
11. Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
10. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
9. Larissa Muldoon (Skewen RFC)

1. Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/ Connacht)
2. Gillian Bourke (Olympico de Pozuelo RFC)
3. Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
4. Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
5. Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)
6. Paula Fitzpatrick (St Mary’s/ Leinster)
7. Claire Molloy (Bristol/ Connacht)
8. Heather O’Brien (Highfield/ Munster)

Replacements:

16. Sarah Mimnagh (Wasps/Exile)
17. Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster)
18. Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
19. Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
20. Katie Norris (Blackrock/Leinster)
21. Tania Rosser (Blackrock/Leinster)
22. Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Exile)
23. Sene Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht)

England

15. Lauren Cattell (Saracens)
14. Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
13. Abigail Brown (Bristol)
12. Ceri Large (Worcester)
11. Sydney Gregson (Bristol)
10. Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, captain)
9. Bianca Blackburn (Worcester)

1. Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2. Victoria Fleetwood (Saracens)
3. Laura Keates (Worcester)
4. Tamara Taylor (vice-captain, Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
5. Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
6. Alexandra Matthews (Richmond)
7. Hannah Gallagher ( Saracens)
8. Harriet Millar-Mills (Waterloo)

Replacements:  

16. Amy Cokayne (Lichfield)
17. Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
18. Justine Lucas (Lichfield)
19. Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
20. Hannah Field (Richmond)
21. Fiona Davidson (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
22. Megan Goddard (Worcester)
23. Amber Reed (Bristol)

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Murray Kinsella

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