Having gone through one of the longest build-up periods imaginable to an international game, Ireland Women’s captain Ciara Griffin was delighted to see her side delivering such a strong performance against Wales.
In their Six Nations Pool B opener in Cardiff, Ireland ran in seven tries on the way to claiming an emphatic 45-0 bonus point victory over the Welsh.
There were try doubles from Beibhinn Parsons and Eimear Considine, while Sene Naoupu, Dorothy Wall and Hannah Tyrrell also crossed the whitewash in a clinical display by Adam Griggs’ side.
A five-try first half was particularly pleasing for Griffin and her team-mates, as they stormed into a 31-0 lead inside the opening half-an-hour.
“That’s been our focus for the last few weeks, building up,” said the Ireland skipper. “We want to start quick, start fast and just play to our tempo. Put our stamp on the game. Credit to everyone out there.
“Everyone knew their role, everyone executed. You could see there was a real hunger in the group. That just gave us that platform to play that attacking style of rugby for that first half and the rest of the game.
“We were confident in ourselves as a group, in terms of the work we’ve done in camps and at training. We’ve pushed ourselves to a different intensity level and that showed out there today in terms of fitness and work-rate around the ball and everything.
“It gave us that good platform to work off. We train so hard because we want to play in the green jersey. Every chance you get to play, you’re going to relish it. I think that really stood out there today.
“Everyone put their best foot forward and you could see there were smiles on the faces. That’s what you want when you go out to that whitewash and it was an enjoyable day.”
The final scoreline eclipsed Ireland’s previous record win over Wales – a 35-0 success in the 2012 Six Nations in Ashbourne, their old home ground for the tournament.
From Griffin’s point of view, there was one aspect of the seven-try showing that pleased her above all others.
I think a big thing was our hunger, and our hunger on both sides of the ball. We weren’t just going through the phases, we were working to get there first. We wanted to win that race on both sides.
“You could see that on both sides and that was really pleasing to me. No one stepped off, everyone kept going until the last minute. Really, really happy.”
Aside from the increasingly-impressive Parsons, out-half Tyrrell was another stand-out performer for Ireland in their first Test match since last October.
A last-minute try capped a fine day’s work for the former Ireland Sevens international, that also included five successful conversions from seven efforts at goal.
Griffin feels Tyrrell is adapting to what is still a relatively new role for her at number 10, and believes the entire squad have stood up to be counted in recent weeks.
“Some of those (conversions) were from the touchline, so it just showed her skill and composure under pressure,” highlighted the Kerry native.
“She is really growing into that role in terms of direction and she’s really leading from the front. This squad has 40-plus really special players.
“What this performance shows is the dedication and work of that squad for the last six months in terms of work-rate. Working at home, working in camp. That really was a whole squad effort and a squad performance.
“I know there were 26 people here this weekend, but there were 40-plus girls out there with us really in spirit. That’s just the group that’s there. It’s a good position.”
Leading into the game, the Ireland Women had taken part in over 20 training camps, and more than 60 pitch sessions, at the IRFU High Performance Centre in Blanchardstown.
This prolonged time on the pitch and in the gym has afforded the girls in green – many of whom are new to the set-up – ample opportunities to come closer together.
“I think a big thing we’re driving in this group is our culture and developing that culture in the group. We can see that it is there. In the pandemic we have each other’s backs.
“Lots of training, pushing each other through times that were tough. Putting the hand around their shoulder metaphorically. It has brought us a lot tighter as a group and it’s a good start to the campaign.”
Next up for Ireland is the visit of France to Energia Park next Saturday (kick-off 2.15pm). The winners of this clash will progress to a Championship final against England, the Pool A winners, the following weekend.
The general consensus was that Ireland’s second half in Cardiff was a drop-off from what was seen before the interval, but Griffin argued that this puts them in a good position for the impending showdown with les Bleues. She added:
We still got 45 points, we’ll be happy any day with 45 and not letting anything in either. That was a big thing for us, to protect our try-line.
“After such a long break from matches, you’re going to have a bit of rustiness or bits of errors, but happy it happened this week. We’ve a lot to learn from that in terms of what we did well, but the areas we need to tighten up on for next week.
“It has definitely put us in a good position going forward. You wish that you took some of those (scoring) chances, but the big thing is we were making them.
“That’s the big thing, we were making those chances. Small little bits of execution here and there that can be fixed easily. I’ll take it as a positive going into next week.”