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'It was a really special moment for us as a squad to have Brian in'

Ireland and Leinster legend O’Driscoll was a welcome visitor to camp ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations opener.

Updated Mar 28th 2022, 12:10 PM

THE ARRIVAL OF Brian O’Driscoll into camp to present the jerseys was an apt touch ahead of Ireland’s new chapter.

It ultimately opened in a disappointing defeat to Wales, but there was plenty of room for optimism at the RDS on Saturday: glimpses of brilliance as the Greg McWilliams era got underway with a complete new-look side, sumptuous tries from impressive trio Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Linda Djougang and Stacey Flood, two debutants in Aoibheann Reilly and Anna McGann, and a record attendance of 6,113 creating an electric atmosphere in the glorious sunshine.

It, too, was Nichola Fryday’s first day in the captain’s job. Another cause for cheer, as the Offaly second row looks to follow in the now-retired Ciara Griffin’s footsteps.

And O’Driscoll’s visit certainly offered some food for thought, with the former Ireland captain imparting his words of wisdom on the squad.

“It was great to have Brian in,” Fryday reflected. “He’s a legend of the sport and I think it was quite fitting for our first jersey presentation as a new group to have someone of that calibre come into it.

“He spoke a lot about our new caps that were going to get to play. It was a really special moment for us as a squad to have someone like Brian in. It was great.”

It was another significant mark for Fryday through a memorable week, as she skippered her country for the first time. That said, there was no fuss, no furore, no extra pressure.

“I just treated it as normal. I have players within the squad that I can lean upon and all the girls have been so supportive this week. I did my previews with the team and then individually. My week didn’t really change apart from a few interviews. It was business as usual for me.”

nichola-fryday-takes-to-the-field Fryday leading Ireland out. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Always about the collective rather than the individual, as the 26-year-old best exemplified in her immediate post-match interview, Fryday and co. will now look to take the positives from Wales and focus on the learnings for France.

A monumental challenge lies ahead in Toulouse on Saturday. It’s certainly a daunting trip to the fully-professional Les Bleus, who are on a complete other level to Wales.

Fryday won’t shy away from that, noting that their next opposition will “crucify” you for ill-discipline, in particular, with their power a frightening prospect. Their 37-10 win and dominant second-half showing against Italy was a real statement of intent — not that one is needed. It’s unquestionably a step-up.

“There are definitely areas we can improve upon, but it will be the same process for us now,” Fryday stressed. “We’ll preview France and we’ll review Wales to see what we can fix, but it’s business as usual.”

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“It is a big step up,” she added. “Any international match is. It’s always going to be those tight margins that go one way or the other.

“There’s a lot of experience within the squad and there’s girls that got that step up for the first time. You look at Aoibheann Reilly, she settled straight into it. She didn’t show that she was off the pace or anything like that. The work we’ve done the last few weeks, the fitness is there for it. I think it’s a big jump, but they managed it well.

“Greg has encouraged girls to go out and express themselves, and to take those chances. If they don’t come off, they don’t come off and we learn from it. There was really exciting parts of that game that showed the style of play that we want to play. We can take some real positives from it.”

This week on the Front Row – The42’s new rugby podcast in partnership with Guinness – panellist Eimear Considine makes a welcome return… and she’s brought her Ireland roommate, Hannah O’Connor, along too. They chat about broken noses, tanning routines, initiation songs and balancing the Women’s Six Nations with teaching, plus how one fan named her child after Ireland winger Beibhinn Parsons! Click here to subscribe or listen below:

Source: The42/SoundCloud

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Emma Duffy

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