Following a successful campaign to date, Ireland hooker Cliodhna Moloney is relishing the prospect of facing defending Women’s Six Nations champions England at Castle Park in Doncaster on Sunday (kick-off 12.45pm).
Adam Griggs’ charges are currently just behind table-topping England on scoring difference, having defeated Scotland and Wales in the opening two rounds. Moloney scored tries in both of these games, putting her in a rich vein of form ahead of this acid test against England.
“We always love playing England regardless of where we are at as a team,” admitted the Galway native. “Ireland against England is always a cracker and we always bring everything we can for them. It will be tough away from home, but we’re building nicely towards it.
“The pressure will only come for ourselves, we won’t be worried about anyone else. We’re looking at where we can exploit them but focusing a lot on ourselves. We’re getting better at certain things and might drop off on other things, but it’s about fixing them week on week.
“If we can get everything together, there’s nothing to say we couldn’t beat England and why not? That’s what you go out to do. If we can keep everyone injury free and up on their feet, that’s the most important thing. The team is in a good place. The team is happy, so yeah, drive on.”
One player who will be missing for the trip to England is Moloney’s fellow Galwegian Beibhinn Parsons. The prodigious teenager, who has three tries from just three Six Nations starts, is sitting her Leaving Certificate exams in the coming months and will miss the remainder of the Six Nations so she can concentrate on her studies.
Although the exciting winger will not be seen again in the green jersey until later in the year, Moloney has hailed the impact made by Parsons and fellow youngsters Judy Bobbett and Dorothy Wall during their relatively short time in the Ireland 15s set-up.
“The young girls in this squad are fabulous. I can’t speak highly enough of them. When I say young girls, there’s three of them in my mind – Judy Bobbett, Dorothy Wall and Beibhinn Parsons. They have a fabulous attitude.
“They’ve been playing rugby probably the same amount of time that we have, because they came through the underage systems. They’re brilliant, brilliant girls all of them. They have a great attitude. It’s not cockiness or anything like that with any of them. It’s confidence in their ability, which we have too.”
Having missed out on the 2019 Championship with a long-term shoulder injury, Moloney has enjoyed a whirlwind reintroduction to the international scene. While she showcased the instincts of an outside back to score her two tries to date, she is quick to highlight the role the whole team plays in getting her over the line.
“It’s not about who gets the scores on the board. It’s just as long as Ireland are scoring. It’s the system that we’re playing and I’m fortunate enough to end up outside the backs who can play ball. If I can’t run it in from there, I’m not really doing my job very well,” the Wasps forward said of her try against Wales.
“It’s about our phase play and our process. Again, whoever gets on the end of that. I could easily have given the ball outside me again. There was backs out there, but I’d probably need to be a bit quicker thinking to get the ball out wide! If I didn’t get over the line I’d have been disappointed. It’s nice, but it’s nicer for the team.”
Amid torrential rain, a gale-force wind and a treacherous hail storm, Moloney completed the full 80 minutes of Ireland’s victory over Wales at Energia Park. She was happy to get a full match under her belt after her 27th-minute withdrawal for a head injury, the previous week against Scotland.
The former Railway Union front rower praised the Ireland squad’s support staff for getting her in a position where she could line out in the green jersey for a second consecutive weekend.
“I wasn’t good to come back on the pitch (during the first half against Scotland) and that’s why that (HIA) protocol is there. I’m thankful it is there because that’s where people have gotten badly hurt in the past and have ended up with lifelong repercussions of concussion. I wasn’t right when I came off.
“I did fail my HIA 1 and it was about coming back after that. It’s the immediate rest that’s the most important thing. I didn’t work at all (the following week), I took a complete rest. I slept a lot, I ate all the right things. I just looked after my body. Then once you can do that, your brain does have a chance to recover.
“Talking to the doctor every day, making sure you’re hydrated. Sleeping lots, minimising screen time – phone, laptop, everything out the window. Which is a bit boring but you just have to take the time off to know that your brain has to be good to go again,” she added.