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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 21 September, 2019
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Adaptability key for Tierney in selecting the best women for the job

The uncapped Nicole Cronin represents a considerable amount of Sevens blood running through the squad of 28.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

WITH ALL THREE pool matches to be run over the space of eight days at next month’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, Ireland’s freshly trimmed squad of 28 is tightly packed with mobile and versatile athletes.

Head coach Tom Tierney has, for the most part, been blessed with a lack of substantial injuries. Playmaker Nikki Caughey is the only absentee attributed to injury rather than selection, so even totemic figures like Niamh Briggs and Sene Naoupu may be asked to shift out of position should Nora Stapleton require an understudy.

For the 13 players outside of Tierney’s perceived first-choice XV positional flexibility is an absolute must. The head coach has come under fire for the number of combinations and new faces used during his three years in charge, now it’s time to reap the benefits.

“Ah, we chopped and changed, but there was always a plan in place behind it all,” Tierney said after announcing his squad in UCD’s cinema today.

“We came in to the job just under three years ago and the plan was to prepare for a World Cup at home. We’re pleased there was always that plan. We were of the opinion that we needed to give the opportunity to enough players to grow the game in Ireland. We’re pleased with how we’ve grown the game and given a lot of opportunities to a lot of players who have shown they can compete at international level.

We’re pleased with the 28 we have, all quality players that can play in a number of positions, which you’ll need in a World Cup.”

To get to that distilled group of 28 though, Tierney notes “some very difficult decisions” that had to be made in recent days.

From the 37-strong training camp announced in June, there have been four additions and 13 cuts. As expected, centre Jenny Murphy and prop Ailis Egan are back in the group after injury. Blackrock centre Katie Fitzhenry and her club wing Jeamie Deacon complete the quartet.

The 13 omissions include Sevens stalwarts like Louise Galvin and Megan Williams, but also second rows Nichola Fryday, Orla Fitzsimons, Elaine Anthony, former mixed martial arts exponent Deirbhile nic a Bhaird and recognised scrum-half Mary Healy.

Grand Slam winner Larissa Muldoon remains the clear first-choice for the number nine jersey, but it is Healy’s omission hat paved the way for the squad’s only uncapped talent. However, as Tierney is quick to point out, Limerick’s Nicole Cronin is an experienced figure on the Sevens circuit if not a recognised international in the 15-a-side game..

“Nicole’s a very exciting player, she’ll add a lot of value to the squad. She’s a multi-capped Sevens player, a very good footballer, and is a very exciting player and will add a lot of value to the squad.”

Hannah Tyrrell, Tom Tierney, Niamh Briggs and Lindsay Peat Tierney with Hannah Tyrell, captain Niamh Briggs and Lindsay Peat at today's squad announcement. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cronin also represents the Sevens blood running through the squad.  With such a tight match schedule, there will be a high premium on pace and the ability to play off the cuff under pressure and fatigue. Experiences that many in this squad have been through in the Sevens setup if not previous World Cups.

Both Tierney and director Anthony Eddy have calmly offered up their assessment that this is the best-prepared Irish squad for a Women’s Rugby World Cup.  Ans there was one key phrase Tierney kept going back to today.

No excuses. Ireland are at home, they’re ready and now they’ve decided on the best women for the job.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge of the three games, we’ve no excuses and won’t be looking forward to anything but putting a really good performance in and doing a really good job in those games.”

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Injury returnees and one uncapped player in Ireland squad for home World Cup

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Sean Farrell

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