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'It's not something you just get over in a day or two. You have to live with it'

Stacey Flood on World Cup heartbreak, and the changes ahead for Irish women’s rugby.

IT MAY BE almost five weeks since their campaign came to an end, but Ireland women’s rugby international Stacey Flood admits the heartbreak of failing to reach next year’s World Cup will remain for some time to come.

ireland-players-dejected-after-the-game Ireland players dejected after their World Cup dream came to a cruel end. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Following defeats to Spain and Scotland either side of a victory against host nation Italy, Ireland finished third at a European qualifying tournament held in Parma last month and consequently missed out on a spot at the 2022 finals in New Zealand.

“It’s still kind of in-process and it’s not something you just get over in a day or two. You kind of have to live with it and I think it’ll be even harder next year when the tournament itself is on. It’s pretty raw still,” Flood acknowledged.

The failure to make the World Cup for the first time in their history – the inaugural finals in 1991 pre-dated Ireland’s debut as an international side by just under two years – has prompted an independent review into the preparation, participation and performance of the squad during an ultimately unsuccessful campaign.

This will form part of a wider process as the IRFU comprehensively examines the structures around the women’s game at all levels in Ireland. While Flood readily accepts the team’s displays didn’t reach the standard required, she insisted everything had been put in place for them to achieve their desired goal.

“Going into those games, I thought we were fully ready. I did think we created a lot of opportunities and we just didn’t execute or pull the trigger on the field. That is down to us as players on the field, of executing our roles and our jobs.

“I think all of our prep work was good going in. In a Covid climate, it is harder to get fixtures and get some hot weather training. All in all, what we had to work with, everything was fine going into that so I can’t fault our prep at all.”

stacey-flood-amee-leigh-murphy-crowe-and-eve-higgins Flood (centre), Eve Higgins and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe as Canterbury revealed the new Ireland rugby jerseys for 2021/22 season, which are on sale now. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A native of Ringsend on the southside of Dublin, Flood was speaking yesterday at an event to mark the unveiling of Ireland’s new rugby jersey for the 2021/22 season. The 25 year old out-half and her international team-mates will get an opportunity to try out this new attire in autumn tests against USA and Japan on 12 November and 20 November respectively.

Whereas traditionally Energia Park in Donnybrook and the UCD Bowl have been utilised as home venues during this window, Ireland will instead be playing at the nearby RDS Arena in the coming weeks. Given it can cater for a capacity crowd of 18,500 on match days, the current record of 6,047 for a standalone women’s international on these shores (set in a defeat to France at Energia Park in March 2019) could well be surpassed in either of these fixtures.

More significantly from Flood’s point of view, it presents her with an opportunity to play for Ireland in front of spectators for the first time on home soil. Even though two of the six games she has played to date were in Donnybrook, they both took place behind closed doors in last April’s Six Nations Championship.

“The Six Nations was pretty tough not having a crowd. No women’s team has played in the RDS, so this will be a first which is great. The bigger the crowd the better. There’s nothing like an Irish home crowd, so really looking forward to that and hopefully we do get good numbers and support behind us,” Flood said.

”It’s going to be good to get back out on the field and try to right some of the things we did wrong. I think that’s one of the hardest things. Not fully reaching your potential on the field and showing people what we can do and are capable of. So I look forward to doing that in November.”

stacey-flood-kicks Flood in action for Ireland. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

This forthcoming window will also bring the curtain down on Adam Griggs’ tenure as Ireland women’s head coach. Following the completion of the Japan test, the New Zealander will hand over the reins to Greg McWilliams and move into a new position as an IRFU Provincial Talent Coach for Leinster.

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Before embarking on a memorable Stateside journey that brought him to Yale University, the USA Eagles and Rugby United New York, McWilliams acted as Ireland women’s assistant coach, helping them to secure a Grand Slam in 2013 as well as a fourth-place finish at the 2014 World Cup. Despite working closely with Griggs across the 7s and 15s set-ups in recent years, Flood welcomes her fellow Dubliner’s appointment from 2022 onwards.

“Griggsy has been great with us, especially with me. He’s given me my first start at 10 and given me the opportunity to play so I really thank him for that,” Flood added.

“I do look forward to meeting Greg and seeing what he has to offer. I’ve never worked with him before, but obviously he’s been involved in previous World Cups and the girls have performed well at them.

“I know he’s very tactically minded and his rugby CV is quite extensive which is really good. It’s a positive that he’s worked with women before, so that’s an added bonus. Hopefully he can add another notch to our belt and I’m looking forward to working with him. I’ve only heard good things.”

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