Ireland Women’s head coach Adam Griggs said the team’s breakdown work was not sharp enough during Sunday afternoon’s 19-10 defeat to a well-drilled USA side at Energia Park.
Ireland were outscored by three tries to two as the US Eagles took the spoils in Donnybrook, making a frustrating start to their November campaign which concludes this Saturday with a trip to Twickenham to face old rivals England (kick-off 5.40pm).
Giving his reaction afterwards, head coach Adam Griggs said: “I think we were certainly beaten around the breakdown. We base our game off trying to play with tempo and getting good quick ball. The USA came out, we knew they were going to be physical. We spoke about being physical ourselves.
“I think certainly around the breakdown, we didn’t create the ball we wanted to actually use. There were times there where, if it could have come out one or two seconds quicker, we would have had a chance. Over the 80 minutes, it just wasn’t up to scratch.”
While it represented a losing return to competitive action for Ireland, it was an ideal opportunity to blood new players ahead of busy year ahead. Lauren Delany and try-scoring winger Laura Sheehan made their debuts in the starting XV, while youngsters Emma Hooban and Beibhinn Parsons entered the fray in the second half.
Parsons made history by becoming Ireland’s youngest senior international player at the tender age of 16 years and 353 days. She eclipsed the record long held by Frank Hewitt who made his debut against Wales in March 194, at the age of 17 years and 157 days.
Griggs was generally pleased with the impacts made by the new additions to his squad and feels the best is yet to come as they look to develop strength in depth. “If you see Laura Sheehan running down the sideline, scoring that try in the corner. You can see how quick she is and even two phases back, we created that space to give her,” he added.
“At the moment, we do one good thing and we let ourselves down by a couple of poor things or making a bad decision. We have to make sure we’re more consistent in terms of what we’re trying to get out of the game.
“You look at Beibhinn Parsons (pictured above) who came on as well and almost got herself over the line. You can see the potential there. I suppose for us moving forward, it’s really handy to have that. We are building some squad depth, so that would be a positive for me.
“These players are getting that experience that they wouldn’t get in any other situation. Come Six Nations, it’s going to be really important for us to have that depth as well.”
While changes are anticipated for the encounter with England, one player who will definitely miss out is Railway Union second row Ciara Cooney. She left the pitch in the 32nd minute with a suspected dislocated shoulder and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines.
This is a hammer blow for the Galway native who was absent for much of the Six Nations because of an ankle injury sustained away to France in the opening round. Nonetheless, Griggs expects the resilient Cooney to back in the frame sooner rather than later.
“It’s really disappointing for Ciara. She’s just bounced back from a couple of injuries, but she’s the ultimate professional and she’s shown that she can get herself back the way she rehabs. She’s very good at it. She’s probably too good at it, because she has to keep doing it. I just hope it’s not too serious and we can get her back.
“It’s another setback, but as I say if there’s anyone that can handle that, it’s Ciara Cooney. I’m sure she’ll have her mind set on getting back for that Six Nations. We really want her, we really need her there as well. She’s a lynchpin of that forward pack. We’ll just have to move on for now.”
After completing the full 80 minutes in her sixth game as Ireland captain, Tralee native Ciara Griffin admitted their performance fell well short of the standard required, saying: “We didn’t really perform the way we wanted. The standards we have set for ourselves. We have to look at that and see what we can improve on. There were snippets of it, but it’s not the way we wanted to perform.
“It’s up to us now to look at that and build from it, and keep going forward. We’ve got to up the standards, up the heads, leading into next week (against England). It’s a very big task.”
However, given how comfortably the debut quartet performed on their international bows, Griffin argued there were positives to take from the game. “They were amazing,” she admitted. “Lauren filled in very well, Laura getting a debut try. Getting breaks, line breaks, getting go-forward ball. Emma Hooban coming on. Solid in the scrum, able to go forward.
“Then you’ve Beibhinn, 16-years-old, to cut lines like that. It’s promising from that (perspective). We got to blood new players leading into next week and leading into a Six Nations as well. That’s something to take from it, but we’ve work to do and we’re going to do it.”