Ireland’s game against Australia in the 5th-8th place play-off at the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Tuesday proved to be a bittersweet one for centre Claire McLaughlin.
After she watched from the stands in all three of Ireland’s pool matches in Dublin, Claire McLaughlin was included a World Cup matchday squad for the very first time earlier this week – and was subsequently called into the action as a first half replacement for the injured Jenny Murphy.
The Cooke and Ulster star was also proudly playing in Belfast for the first time at international level, and although she acknowledged that Ireland’s performance and result were below the standard required, she was personally relieved to finally get some game-time in the tournament.
“I got on a lot earlier than I thought I would. Obviously I’m pretty happy to have got onto the pitch, and it’s a bit of a relief considering I’ve been on the high bench for the past three games. It was great to get out there obviously. I’m disappointed in the result, and how we played, but we’ve got another game coming up on Saturday. Hopefully we’ll get a performance then,” said McLaughlin post-match at Kingspan Stadium.
“It’s a really nice feeling to be back home, and to get to run out at Kingspan. The crowd today was great as well. They really lifted things whenever we needed it at times, but all in all, we just didn’t perform well enough.”
McLaughlin made her Ireland debut as a replacement during last year’s Six Nations win over Italy in Donnybrook, but before Tuesday’s encounter with the Wallaroos, her last Test appearance was against France back in February.
The 25-year-old admits that it has been frustrating to miss out on Ireland’s recent games, but with a strong squad unity within the camp, the World Cup has been a good experience overall for the Belfast-based doctor.
“Obviously it was very disappointing, but everybody in that 28-strong squad has a role to play, and on match day you’re there with the squad. You’re in the changing rooms, you’re helping anyone, you’re getting whatever needs to be got. You’re doing everything, apart from the playing part.
“Which is obviously frustrating, but there is a real squad feeling, and everyone just comes together. It’s great to just be a part of it, and it’s been such a good experience, despite not playing the first three games.”
With this weekend’s 7th-8th place play-off against Wales now on the horizon for Ireland, Tom Tierney’s squad need to pick themselves up quickly from this latest setback. In terms of areas that need to be addressed before Saturday’s Celtic derby, McLaughlin believes that their defence and overall discipline will have to come into focus in their pre-match preparations.
“I think obviously our defence was an issue (against Australia). We didn’t have line-speed, and there were missed tackles. When you miss tackles, and the other teams get in on the front foot, there’s not much you can do, and obviously they will score tries from that.
“Discipline as well, we conceded quite a lot of penalties, and that didn’t help things. It just let Australia get a grip on the game. Those would be two main things that we need to be focusing on over the next few days.”
While Wales were brushed aside 52-0 by Canada in a one-sided clash at Queen’s University, they did run Ireland close during the Six Nations in Cardiff in March. The girls in green were made to work hard for a 12-7 victory that day, and McLaughlin is hopeful that they can rediscover their winning touch on the final day of the World Cup.
“We’re disappointed now, but from tonight into tomorrow, we’ll just have to pick it up and bring a winning mindset, because we want to win on Saturday. We need a performance, and I think we owe it ourselves now to get that performance
“In the past few weeks, we’ve become so tight as a squad. We’ve done so well to come together. I think we really do owe it to ourselves. Positivity is key over the next few days, and that winning mindset,” she added.
For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for the climax of #WRWC2017 in Belfast this Saturday on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.