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'We wanted that ruthless streak': Niamh Briggs keeping firm grip on 6 Nations crown

“I made my feelings known to everybody that I wasn’t going to use the changes as an excuse.”

WITH HER LEFT hand, Niamh Briggs has a solid hold on a banister as she hobbles down one step at a time. An offer comes to free her right hand of a considerable weight, but she declines.

Niamh Briggs with the 6 Nations trophy Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Six Nations trophy is firmly in her grasp and she’s damned if anyone less deserving is going to carry it out into the fresh air.

About 22 hours previously, Ireland’s captain was in similarly defiant mood after a brief stint of treatment to her knee. Despite wincing throughout the remainder of the half and the game, Briggs wasn’t about to let herself be taken out of the game.

“No. Definitely not,” the fullback says categorically, “I think when you win matches and trophies and Championships like we did yesterday, any injury seems irrelevant until it all settles down.

It’ll be fine I’m sure – [I] just know it’s a knee injury. It looks a little bit fat, it’s just a bang and it’s awkward is all.”

Ireland went in to this weekend trailing the Championship leaders France – the only side to beat them this year – by a points difference of 20. even before Les Bleus took a 15 -21 win from Twickenham, Saturday provided ample opportunity for distractions.

Instead of getting side-tracked by the men’s game, Briggs and her squad took inspiration from the way deficits were hoovered up, though the captain herself was busy getting kicking practice in while the action was under way in Murrayfield.

Niamh Briggs celebrates in the changing room with the cup Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It was kind of bizarre, because in the Wales-Italy match,Wales were all over the shop and they were very jittery, but they managed to come out second half and blow it out of the water. That’s what we were saying to the girls:’look, if the scores don’t come in the first 40-60 minutes, it’s okay.’”

The scores did come in the first 40 and everything was more than just okay. Ireland relentlessly kept a foot on Scotland’s throat and took away try after try to end with a record points haul for Ireland Women.

“It was incredibly clinical and professional and we really wanted to help turn the screw.

“We wanted to have a streak of that ruthlessness in us and I think we’ve done that, we’ve gone to a new level where we’re able to rack up points. it was great, but you couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for Scotland.

“They’re an incredibly proud rugby nation. They’ve put a lot of work in to their under age structures and I’m sure they’ll come good in a few years time.”

She added: “When you come in at half-time or look up at the clock on 60 minutes and there’s 50-odd points up, you’re kind of thinking ‘is this real’ — it was an unbelievable effort by the girls, they played absolutely fantastic yesterday.”

Medals and a Championship trophy make it terrific end to what could have been a difficult year under other circumstances with a raft of new faces and new coaches at the helm. However, Briggs has always been steadfast in where the standards lie for Ireland Women. Before the first kick-off in February she boldly set the target on winning the title.

Now, having celebrated the men’s success with tea and a chocolate bar, she has her hands on the trophy she has craved from the start and can toast vindication with something a little stronger.

Niamh Briggs talks to her players Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“A lot of people wrote us off, and I don’t particularly blame them, there was so much change. But for me, there was still a good core of the squad there together and I made my feelings known to everybody that I wasn’t going to use the changes as an excuse.

“It was just an unbelievable effort by the squad. not even the 23, but the 30-32 that have been training all year. It’s fantastic and we’re delighted we’ve been able to make people sit up and take notice again.”

– First published 15.45

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Sean Farrell

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