Ireland Women’s head coach Tom Tierney has praised his players’ work ethic after they clinched the Women’s RBS 6 Nations title in fine style against Scotland.
Tom Tierney, along with Anthony Eddy (director of Women’s rugby), Declan O’Brien (assistant coach) and Derek Dowling (scrum coach), became involved with the Ireland Women’s set-up late last year, taking over the reins from Philip Doyle who had guided the girls to a Grand Slam (2013) and a fantastic fourth place finish at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
With players of the calibre and experience of long-serving captain Fiona Coghlan, Lynne Cantwell, Grace Davitt, Siobhan Fleming and Laura Guest now retired, and some others missing the Championship through injury, Tierney needed a number of newcomers to step up to the plate.
He gave debuts to Hannah Tyrrell, Sene Naoupu, Katie Fitzhenry, Aoife Doyle, Sarah Mimnagh, Fiona O’Brien and Katie Norris in recent weeks and the girls really delivered as a collective, particularly in the last two games away to both Wales (20-0) and Scotland (73-3).
Speaking at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld after the title was clinched with an emphatic 73-3 win over Scotland, Tierney stated: “This team can be very proud of what they have achieved. Women’s rugby around the world has improved a lot in recent years and we knew that there were going to be a lot of tough challenges during February and March.
“When you come in as a new coach you aren’t always sure how a group might react to your ideas, but the players were on board from day one and what is key is that they always want to improve and get better.
“That makes it quite easy as a coach and most pleasing for me was the Wales victory where we managed to keep them to no points. If you have a strong defence then you have always got a chance in any rugby match.”
The statistics more than back that up, with Ireland showing themselves to have the best defence in Europe with just three tries and 26 points leaked over the course of the five-match campaign. Their attack was also clinical at times, racking up 20 tries.
Tierney, the former international scrum half, paid tribute to his more senior players, the likes of full-back and captain Niamh Briggs, for setting those high standards on both sides of the ball.
“At the end of the day a coach can demand certain things from players, but they have to take it on board and with the likes of Niamh leading from the front it happened quickly. The standards the more experienced players set themselves has rubbed off on the younger ones and it means that they are a very tight-knit unit.
“The communication between the players when they are out there on the pitch is great and that again helps a coach enormously while it makes it easier to exchange ideas.”
Commenting on yesterday’s decisive match, the Limerick man added: “I guess the girls could have had a few nerves knowing that they needed to beat Scotland by 27 points to make sure of the trophy, but if they did they didn’t show them. They went out there and were fairly clinical and I thought the pack really played well.
“It was a big thing for them to try and win the trophy on the same weekend as the (Ireland) men’s team and having done it now it is something they will always remember. I think there is a lot more to come from this group.”