Hannah Tyrrell believes that Ireland need to keep close tabs on Japan’s kicking game, as they prepare to face the Asian champions in Pool C of the Women’s Rugby World Cup at the UCD Bowl on Sunday (kick-off 5.15pm).
Hannah Tyrrell featured in the first of two trial games against the Japanese back in June, and with their ball-carrying threat and overall technical ability also standing out, she feels there are a number of areas where they can cause the hosts problems.
“For me, Japan, their number 8 (Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave) is a big threat for them. She’s their big ball carrier, she’s a really big threat. They’ve some really fast wingers out the back, and they love a little kick over the top or a cross-field kick,” explained Tyrrell, speaking after Ireland’s opening 19-17 pool win over Australia in midweek.
“They’re things we’re looking out for, but all of them are very, very good players. Very good technical ability. A lot of fitness, and they get around the park very well. Just very well organised.”
While Ireland enjoyed a winning start to the tournament against Australia, Japan were on the receiving end of a disappointing 72-14 defeat to France at UCD’s Billings Park. They will be hoping for an improved performance in their second game, however, and Tyrrell expects a completely different challenge to the one Ireland encountered from the Wallaroos.
“A lot of Japan’s backs would be Sevens players, so will probably be very fit, and not carrying a lot of extra weight to be honest. They wouldn’t be the biggest of units in the back-line, but like myself, they know how to put themselves about!
“They tend to use the footwork and speed to get around them, instead of the big bash-it-up centres or wingers that maybe Australia have. It’s a different challenge come Sunday, but they’re a good side.”
Wednesday’s three-try triumph over the Wallaroos was Tyrrell’s first experience of playing in the Women’s Rugby World Cup, and with the added factor of a home tournament coming into play, there was a lot of pressure on the Old Belvedere star and her Irish team-mates.
The Dublin native admitted that it was a nervy display at times from Ireland, but is adamant that only minor adjustments are required for the second round clash with Japan.
“Probably just a little bit of nerves. It’s a World Cup on home soil, game one. We wanted to get off to a good start. They were just big units, and we were really going hard at them. There were a lot of turnovers in the game from both teams, but thankfully we built that bit of momentum. Got a couple of tries that way, and finished the game out strong.
“Sometimes you just don’t get your pass as perfect as you want it, to be honest. They’re little things for me to focus on for the next game, but as a team we’ve only little things to work on. Just a bit more physicality at the ruck, maybe get a little bit lower. Communication on where we’re going, and we’ll be ready to rock against Japan.”
In a tight match that went right down to the wire, there were some key moments that swung the outcome in Ireland’s favour. The introductions of Sophie Spence and Ciara Griffin from the bench – in the 51st and 58th minutes respectively – helped to halt the momentum that Australia had been building, and the influential duo both crossed the whitewash during the final quarter.
Tyrrell saw their entrance onto the pitch as a turning point in the game, and also reserved praise for the work that her fellow backs Alison Miller and Jenny Murphy put in as Ireland pulled off a hard-fought victory in the end.
“I think everybody played really, really well, but I think a big turning point in the game was probably Sophie Spence and Ciara Griffin coming on. They really, really put some big hits, big carries in. Really made their presence felt.
“I think Ali Miller in the backs put herself about as well. Jenny Murphy had some big hits, but collectively it was a really good team effort, and everybody put their bodies on the line,” she added.