Having spent several months working on a game-plan for their eventual return to action, Ireland Women’s head coach Adam Griggs was thrilled to see it coming together at Cardiff Arms Park this evening.
Long before the final whistle was blown in their opening game of Pool B in the revamped Six Nations Championship, Ireland had made certain of their bonus point victory.
Eimear Considine and Beibhinn Parsons got the ball rolling with a brace of tries each, before Sene Naoupu, Dorothy Wall and Hannah Tyrrell also crossed to secure a convincing 45-0 win.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, Griggs said: “I think in that first half you saw maybe some of the frustration of not playing for so long coming out. We were really clinical in some of those parts.
“The pleasing thing is a lot of those things that came off, we’ve worked hard on in training. We spoke about it before this game, putting in a performance that showed all the hard work we’d done so far. I was really pleased by that.”
In comparison to the first half where they raced into a 31-0 lead by the 28th-minute, some of Ireland’s play during the closing 40 minutes was scrappy and not as accurate as they would have liked.
Griggs puts a lot of this down to the way the game had panned out earlier on. The New Zealander is pleased that there were still areas to improve upon, despite the emphatic nature of the result.
It’s one of those things, you can fall into a bit of a trap when you get early tries. You get such a lead that you can overplay at times.
“I think we were probably a little bit guilty of that. Some of our core skills, that looked so sharp in the first half, let us down. From a coaching group perspective, it’s a good thing that you’ve got really positive clips to show them.
“But at the same time there’s plenty that we can work on. We know that France will bring a different challenge. Them travelling to us is going to be something that we’ll target around the travelling side of things, but the confidence in the group is really sky high after that.”
Having previously spent most of her 15s international career at either full-back or on the wing, Tyrrell was moved to out-half for last October’s home defeat of Italy. She responded with a confident display and retained her spot alongside Kathryn Dane for Ireland’s first game of 2021.
In addition to slotting over five conversions – a number of them from acute angles – she scored a five-pointer of her own and also set up Parsons’ second score with a superb cross-field kick.
This made the former Ireland Sevens international a popular selection as the player-of-the-match. With Tyrrell impressing in the number 10 jersey, Griggs believes he may now have a solution to what had become a tricky conundrum.
“It has been no secret. We’ve been looking to nail down that position and I think between her and Kathryn Dane, in that 9-10 slot, we need to build our team around that anchor of those players.
“I think they both took that on today and really did a great job steering us around the park. Hannah has got that natural eye for the game.
“I know she’s got that GAA background with her boot, which really helps us as well. She can put that long kick when she needs to and I think we saw some really nice delicate grubbers through as well.
“For me that’s just her building confidence in her game understanding and really playing heads up rugby.
“Then the beauty of her is that we were able to shift her to the wing and then to full-back when Eimear went (off) with cramp. She’s got that versatility for us as well, which is key.”
Griggs has integrated a number of players into the squad since taking charge in 2018. This continued in the Welsh capital with Eve Higgins handed her debut at centre while Stacey Flood and Emily Lane also won their first 15s caps off the bench.
He was pleased with the contributions of this young triumvirate, who have all appeared for Ireland in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in recent years.
They were certainly excited for it. Even we had our jersey presentation this morning and I think it always hits home and gives a bit of a reality of what the jersey means to them.
“Who they’re playing for and representing…you could see the smiles on their faces and we were really happy with what they did on the field as well, which is obviously the plus.
“I thought they added some real impact around the park. I know they’ll be much better for that experience moving forward.”
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Grace Moore are the remaining uncapped players in the Ireland squad and will be hoping to be in the reckoning for next Saturday’s crunch showdown with France in Dublin.
Their presence in camp is helping to create strength in depth, something Griggs has been striving for across the last few campaigns.
“We’ve worked really hard over the last couple of seasons to build that competitiveness in this group. We spoke about how this group had the responsibility this week and for the most part everyone performed really well,” he acknowledged.
“As long as you do that, it drives the standards from the players that aren’t involved as well. As I said, we’ve had a settled enough squad and then adding those players from that Sevens group as well has really pushed things on. The headaches are always a good headache and that’s the situation.”