The new Ireland Women’s head coach and captain pairing of Adam Griggs and Ciara Griffin believe the squad can go into the upcoming Six Nations campaign confident of achieving success.
A 27-19 victory over Wales in Caerphilly on Sunday saw Ireland warm up for the tournament with a morale-boosting triumph in what was New Zealander Adam Griggs’ first game in charge.
Uncapped winger Megan Williams, Claire McLaughlin, Alison Miller, Leah Lyons and Sene Naoupu were the try scorers as the girls in green deservedly came out on top.
“It was a good first game for us. We haven’t had a hit-out yet so in terms of match pressure, it was good for us to get up and running after all the training we’ve been doing,” admitted Griggs, who is supported by Jeff Carter and former international Mike Ross in the new-look management team.
“We laid a pretty good platform up front and the (wet) conditions didn’t help us. It was a really big chance for some of the girls who haven’t been involved before to show us what they can do. We’ve seen them at interprovincial level and we know what they’re about, so it’s about seeing if they can take that next step to international rugby.
“I also thought Niamh Briggs was very good for us at 10, coming back after a long injury and almost a year-a-half without rugby. She slotted in there easily and steered us around the field. We just have to watch her match minutes at the moment, but hopefully she stays fit because she was really good for us.”
He added: “We have another camp this weekend where we can continue to improve and work on some of our mistakes. Certainly our discipline needs to be worked on. We gave Wales a lot of easy outs, but every time we have stepped onto the field we have improved, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Griggs’ charges were deserved winners on a wet afternoon in south Wales. The home side did come back into the game after a slow start to lead 19-17 at half-time. Two tries from Jess Kavanagh-Williams and an effort from skipper Carys Phillips had done the damage for the hosts, but second half scores from Lyons and Naoupu saw Ireland respond.
Number 8 Ciara Griffin, who captained Ireland for the first time, said: “It’s always nice to get a win first time out. It was a tough match in tough conditions and we made it difficult for ourselves with our discipline, but that’s what these matches are great for in terms of working on things we need to improve.
“We need to build on a few things going into the Six Nations, but we’re happy overall. The captaincy is a massive honour. It’s all a bit mad, but I’m relishing the challenge and I’ve got great support all around me. There are still great leaders in this team and they’re supporting me and helping me. If I have any questions, they’re there for me.
“The new players are settling in really well. They made such an impact against Wales coming on and things are coming together really nicely. The team spirit is great and it’s so enjoyable to come into camp.”
Ireland begin their Six Nations campaign against France a week on Saturday at Toulouse’s famous Stade Ernest Wallon ground, before returning home for three successive matches at Donnybrook where they will host Italy (February 11), Wales (February 25) and Scotland (March). Buy tickets now from ticketmaster.ie.
Looking forward to his first competitive clashes as head coach, Griggs insisted: “Hopefully come France we’ll be in a good place. I’m asking the girls to do some new things they’re maybe not as comfortable with, but that’s good for them.
“Our hopes are high for the Six Nations. Make no mistake we’re here to win and we just don’t want to participate. We have three home games so hopefully our crowd can help us out.”
Griffin added: “I think we’ll be competitive. We always want to win and that’s our aim. We’ve played France before in a late kick-off in Perpignan and we’ll adapt to that again.
“Whenever you play France it’s a massive atmosphere over there. We’ll relish the challenge and feed off that and if we work hard and improve on some of the mistakes we made against Wales, we’ll be in a good place.”
IRELAND WOMEN – 2018 SIX NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES:
France Women v Ireland Women, Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse, Saturday, February 3, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time – Buy Match Tickets
Ireland Women v Italy Women, Donnybrook, Sunday, February 11, 1pm – Buy Match Tickets
Ireland Women v Wales Women, Donnybrook, Sunday, February 25, 3pm – Buy Match Tickets
Ireland Women v Scotland Women, Donnybrook, Sunday, March 11, 1pm – Buy Match Tickets
England Women v Ireland Women, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, Friday, March 16, 5.30pm – Buy Match Tickets