Fitzpatrick's ball-carrying was superb for Ireland at the World Cup. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Fitzpatrick feels underage structures are key to ensuring Irish progress

The St. Mary’s back row was a standout performer for Ireland at the World Cup.

ST. MARY’S BACK row Paula Fitzpatrick started the World Cup on the bench, but finished it as a key component of Ireland’s side, impressing against France at Stade Jean-Bouin yesterday.

The 29-year-old has established herself as a key ball carrier in this Irish squad, one which now must look to build on the overriding positivity of their campaign in France.

Finalists Canada and England have strong development pathways in place, ensuring a steady supply of high-quality players for their senior national teams. Fitzpatrick feels Ireland must now follow that example.

Obviously, it’s going to be a building year for a lot of teams,” said Fitzpatrick. “After a World Cup you always have a few casualties that decide to move on. So probably for a lot of teams, it’ll be a building year. We spoke about leaving the jersey in a better place.

“There are players coming through, but hopefully the IRFU will push on now and put some structures in place. There are other countries like England and Canada who have underage structures in place, so they have that talent coming through.”

“We don’t have that as much right now, but I really hope this performance and the goodwill about women’s rugby will see them push on and pump resources in. That can let Fi [Coghlan], Lynne [Cantwell], whoever, to leave a legacy behind that they can be proud of.”

Paula Fitzpatrick after the game The World Cup ended in disappointment for Fitzpatrick and Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

From a personal point of view, Fitzpatrick has thrived in her first World Cup, offering excellent footwork pre-contact and a powerful drive through the tackle. Defensively, the back row has not shirked a tackle, and points out that the environment has brought out the best in her.

“It’s been amazing, I’ve really enjoyed it. Getting to play with the likes of Fiona Coghlan, Lynne Cantwell, Nora Stapleton, Maz Reilly, all of them. Every person in the 26 is an amazing player and to be in that atmosphere and environment is brilliant.

It’s such a professional environment and every single person puts in 100 per cent. To be able to work with this management team has been huge. This is my first World Cup so it’s a huge learning experience for me.”

While the tournament ended in defeat for Ireland against France yesterday, Fitzpatrick was enthused that she and her teammates put in a strong performance to finish, compensating for the sheer disappointment of defeat to England in the semi-finals.

“There are huge positives to take,” said Fitzpatrick at Stade Jean-Bouin. “After the last game against England, our priority was to go out and put in a performance that we’re capable of. I think despite the result, we did perform for large periods of the game. Just at the end we couldn’t pull through.”

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