Laura Coates speaks to Ireland Women’s coach Kevin West about the RBS Women’s 6 Nations Championship so far and Friday’s encounter with Wales. This article is re-produced by permission from ScrumQueens.com.
We are over halfway through the 2010 RBS Women’s 6 Nations Championship and Ireland coach Kevin West is a man playing his cards close to his chest.
The New Zealander seems to have adopted a ‘one in, all in’ approach to the side’s one win and two defeats so far, and will neither single out any of his squad for special praise nor criticism.
He is also not willing to let slip what areas the girls in green are going to target in this Friday’s crunch clash with Wales at Ashbourne RFC (kick-off 7.30pm).
Both sides are coming off the back of losses – Ireland a stinging 22-5 loss away to England and Wales a 15-3 home defeat by the French.
As both the Irish and Welsh have been put to the sword by both England and France, the scrap is now on for third place in the competition, and Friday night’s encounter will be the crucial one of the competition for both countries.
West has approached this Championship – his first at the helm of the Irish side – with at least one, if not both, eyes firmly fixed on developing the squad he will take to the World Cup in England this summer.
“We are happy with the development of the squad so far. One of the aims of the competition was to start developing depth in the side,” he said.
“We are not as happy as we could be with where we are in terms of results. I think that we underperformed, albeit against a good French side.
“And we were disappointed with the final score against England. It was not reflective of the game last weekend,” added West, noting that the English victory was down to their ‘scoring efficiency.’
“When you play a quality side like that you are punished ruthlessly for making errors. But we took heart from being competitive, and we learned a lot.”
The coach commented after the game that the scrum would be a subject of Irish focus for the rest of the Six Nations campaign and over the summer in the run-up to the World Cup.
“We had some isues in a couple of games within the scrum. There are areas we are already working on, and we have one or two new players learning their trade and improving too. The set piece is always king.”
One of West’s key focuses upon taking over the Irish squad last autumn was intended to be on the fitness and conditioning of his charges.
He said at the time that such work would help bridge the gap with professional or semi-pro players such as those in the English and New Zealand set-ups. So has this worked?
“We’re happy with the conditioning programme. We’re lasting these matches pretty well, and it’s not so much about our (physical) strength as much as our mental ability and conditioning.
“We are able to keep going mentally right to the end, so we get a real benefit from that. We’re also excited about the fact that we get another summer to build on that before the World Cup.”
West says he is happy with the contribution and attitude of the 25 players in the Irish set up, adding: “Every single one has contributed to the team environment, so we are really happy to be able to mix and match the 25.
“We have a strong squad ethos, and as part of that I’m loathe to single out individuals. We share our successes together, and suffer the pain of defeat together.”
So with the confrontation with the Welsh set for Friday night, and with the Welsh coach Jason Lewis promising that his Triple Crown-winning side can strike back from their French mauling with a victory and a decent performance too, what have the Irish got up their sleeves?
“I know, from reading comments from their coach, that they were surprised and disappointed with that result against France.
“It’s a similar situation for us to the French match, we’re getting everyone coming on a backlash, which we could do without.
“The Welsh are a really good side, and beating England last year is a testament to that. They may have also come up against a pretty focused and good French side, the end of the Six Nations is going to tell us about that.
“We have to make sure that we bring our full game to the party, rather than concentrate on one aspect of the game or another,” concluded West.
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