She finished with ten points to her name at the UCD Bowl yesterday, but Ireland out-half Nora Stapleton was left somewhat frustrated by her side’s 12-10 defeat to England in their opening Women’s November Series fixture.
In the end, a converted 72nd minute try by Izzy Noel-Smith denied the Ireland Women only their third ever win over England. Despite being annoyed at not coming out on the right side of the result, Nora Stapleton revealed that they were quite happy with their overall performance.
“To let them in there (for the late try) when we had so much dominance, it’s really frustrating for the team. But at the same time we are happy with our performance. We’ll take an awful lot from it. I think we learnt a few lessons, and some of our decision-making and stuff like that,” she said.
“Overall, we are happy with our performance. It’s against the world champions, but we are just really annoyed that we didn’t come away with the victory.”
As well as serving as ideal preparation for next year’s Six Nations, it was important for Ireland to acclimatise themselves with the UCD surface ahead of the 2017 Women’s World Cup on home soil. The pool stages of the competition will take place in the Belfield venue, and Stapleton gave the ground her seal of approval.
“You can see the (World Cup) talk starting to build, especially with the pool draw. A couple of people have their tickets already, basically for semi-finals and finals down in Kingspan (Stadium). There’s a great crowd out there today, especially on a Sunday afternoon.
“They’re nice and loud. It’s kind of a nice-shaped bowl. You can really feel people are coming in on top of you, and hopefully they open up the other side to the crowd as well. Because that’s what you want. You want the place buzzing coming into the World Cup.
Next up for Ireland is another game at UCD against 2014 World Cup finalists Canada, and Stapleton was quick to emphasise the physical edge that they bring to their game.
“Canada are probably going to play a little bit different than that. They’re a very physical team. We haven’t done too much analysis on them yet, but starting tomorrow (Monday) basically, we’ll be on the laptops and things like that having a look at them.
“We’re really looking forward to it. We have to be playing rugby at this time of year if we want to improve, especially heading into the Six Nations, and into the World Cup. The more game-time we get under our belts, it’s going to help us improve all the time,” she added.
Meanwhile, Paula Fitzpatrick, who captained Ireland on the day, featured alongside Ciara Griffin and Claire Molloy in the back row and she also pointed to Canada’s physicality ahead of their second November Series match in the space of six days.
“They’re a quality side, they’re really physical. They came second in the World Cup last time out in 2014. They’ve huge experience in their squad. They’ll have a lot of girls coming back in from the Sevens as well. They’ll have pace and power, and we’re looking to combat that next weekend,” said the St. Mary’s star.
Over the course of an attritional 80 minutes against England, Ireland head coach Tom Tierney was able to hand international debuts to three players – Nicole Fowley at outside centre, as well as forwards Leah Lyons and Chloe Pearse from the bench. Fitzpatrick praised the trio for their roles in an encouraging display, and she believes they have been rewarded for their form at club level.
“Yeah, fantastic to be honest. They look like they’ve been there for years. Nicole starting in the centre, and then we had Leah and Chloe coming off the bench. All three of the girls have been playing fantastically well in the All-Ireland League for their clubs.
“Leah is with Highfield, Chloe is with UL Bohs, and Nicole is with Galwegians. They’ve been doing fantastically well, and that’s what earned them their call-ups to the squad.”
There was little to separate the sides on the day, but from their two significant attacks of the contest, England emerged with crucial tries. Fitzpatrick acknowledged that this clinical edge was crucial, and she feels that the visitors’ experience did show at times.
“I suppose that comes down to their experience again. When they did get their opportunities, they were clinical, and then maybe a couple of times we had a few set pieces in their 22 and we didn’t make it count. That was probably what let us down in the end,” admitted the number 8.
Ireland take on Canada at the UCD Bowl next Saturday afternoon (kick-off 2pm). Tickets for the Women’s November Series are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ie/womensrugby. Individual match tickets – adults €;10 (seating) and €;5 (standing) and children (free – must be booked with adult ticket) – and two-game packs are available.