After watching his side lost 38-8 to number one-ranked New Zealand at the UCD Bowl yesterday, Ireland Women’s head coach Tom Tierney emphasised the need to focus on critical areas ahead of next year’s World Cup campaign on home soil.
With the Black Ferns breaking through for six tries during the final November Series Test, Tom Tierney felt that the breakdown and set piece accuracy from his charges did not reach the standard required, and this is something that the squad will be seeking to rectify in 2017.
“It’s going to be a lot of work over the next couple months to plan. The key will be to focus on critical areas, because again there was critical areas out there today that let us down,” he said. “Especially the breakdown, and stuff like that, set piece accuracies. It just turns the game on a difference course as opposed to anything else.
“It just puts you on the back foot straight away. We’re going to pinpoint maybe three or four critical areas that we actually have to invest time and expertise in, so we can be more competitive. At times we’re competitive, but when it breaks down, or when the key areas actually just leave us down, we’re blown apart a small bit.”
However, this first ever November Series has provided big-game experience for several players within the Women’s set-up, and with 19 players receiving their first caps over the last 12 months, Tierney believes it will take time for them to progress to the level of Canada and New Zealand.
“Since this time last year, I think it’s 19 new caps that we’ve given time to. We’re very, very happy with a lot of players. It’s just about getting ourselves up to speed in relation to the top end quality that obviously Canada, to a certain extent, but definitely New Zealand (have) here. Obviously, 5-3 at half-time, we were in with a shout, but the few scores after half-time just finished the game,” he added.
One major positive for Ireland on the day was the return of captain Niamh Briggs to the starting line-up following her five-week lay-off with a hamstring injury. The Waterford native revealed after the game that she was slightly ahead of schedule in her recuperation, and praised physio Emma Gallivan for getting her in a position where she could play.
“I think it wasn’t the plan for me to get back this quickly, but in fairness to our physio Emma, she really worked hard with me the last few weeks, and gave me the opportunity to get back out there. I’m delighted with it. I feel a little bit rusty and off the pace, but I was just thrilled to get back out there, to be honest,” stated the experienced full-back.
This was the third game in as many weeks for Ireland at UCD, and with the venue set to host the pool stages of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, Briggs was hugely encouraged by the support they have received during the November Series.
“It has been brilliant. We’re competing with the men as well, because we’re all hosting November internationals. It’s huge for us, and to come out here and see all these young kids, young girls. It’s brilliant, and it’s going to grow the game for us. You can take a couple of days off, and then we can start rejigging for the Six Nations, because December is going to be hugely important for us.”
Before the Ireland players can contemplate challenging for the Six Nations crown again or competing on the world stage, they have the Women’s Interprovincial Series starting next Saturday with three successive rounds in the lead up to Christmas – and the extended All-Ireland League is growing in intensity with each passing week.
While there was a big focus on Ireland testing themselves out this month against the world’s top three teams, Briggs was eager to state that the squad treat each game with equal respect, whether there are Six Nations or World Cup points on the line or not.
“They’re three different competitions as such (the November Series, Six Nations and World Cup), but for us there’s no difference really. They’re all Test matches. You want to go and win everyone. And if you don’t, it hurts.
“We’ve shown here today, we’ve shown in patches over the last couple of weeks, that we can live with the best sides in the world. It’s about being consistent, and putting all that together. I don’t think we can hold any fear going into the Six Nations.”