Paula Fitzpatrick is hoping to finish the Women’s Six Nations Championship on a high in Coventry on Friday evening (kick-off 5.30pm) when Ireland face defending champions England in a mouth-watering final round clash.
After encouraging victories over Italy and Wales helped them to gather momentum, the Ireland Women took a step backwards when going down 15-12 to an ever-improving Scotland side at Donnybrook on Sunday.
Number 8 Paula Fitzpatrick, whose final quarter try had moved Ireland back to within three points of the Scots, knows it is important for the squad to bounce back with a strong performance at the Ricoh Arena, on what promises to be a big weekend for Irish Rugby.
“It’s really important that we bounce back, even just mentally for the girls individually. For whoever is continuing on next year that you finish it with a performance that you’re proud of. England are obviously going to be a really, really tough team,” said Fitzpatrick, who won her 40th Ireland cap last weekend.
“The English had a really tough game against France last night, losing 18-17. They’ll be bouncing back from that themselves as well after losing for the first time in this year’s tournament. Should be a big one next weekend now.”
Reflecting on the last of Ireland’s three home matches in a row at Donnybrook, Fitzpatrick conceded that Scotland were the hungrier side on the day. “We started to actually play some phases towards the end of the game, but when you don’t start playing until the 76th minute against a team that are on the rise really…,” she said.
“Scotland are really, really growing and when you perform like that against them, they deserve to win. They were better than us on the day, they were hungrier than us as well. In certain parts of the game, we outplayed them. Our scrum was obviously dominant. They were obviously quite wary of our maul as well, and we got a bit of change out of that. But look, it wasn’t enough.”
Spirits were high in the Irish camp as a result of their 35-12 bonus point success against Wales a fortnight ago, with an excellent recent record against Scotland making them hot favourites to make it three victories on the trot under new head coach Adam Griggs.
Fitzpatrick believes the squad’s work behind the scenes was every bit as precise as it was in the days leading up to the Welsh game, instead seeing their execution as the key reason for a below-par performance in round 4.
“Preparation was very good coming into it. Scotland really hit the ground running, and like I said, they just wanted it more at the start of the game. We weren’t there. We were trying, we were trying all through the game, but just execution-wise there was just so many dropped balls.
“So many handling errors, so many near missed passes or passes out to the touchline. You just can’t do that against a team like that. You can’t really take them for granted.”
Whereas Ireland had a two week build-up to their matches against Wales and Scotland, they are now in the midst of a five-day turnaround to their trip to the English west midlands. As a result, Fitzpatrick and her team-mates were already on the road to recovery within minutes of Sunday’s final whistle.
She added: “It’s always tough to recover from international games, so when you’ve only five days it’s even tougher. We’ll be coming into camp again on Wednesday. It’ll be tough, we’ll have to get working on our recovery straight away now.
“We’ve already started with ice baths and everything else. We need to get the bodies ready, because it’s going to be an even tougher game now next weekend.”