Ireland lock Nichola Fryday admitted there was a massive sense of relief within the squad when they finally crossed the white line last Saturday for their return to Women’s Six Nations action.
After nearly six months without a competitive fixture, the Ireland Women were back with a bang against Wales, running in seven tries in a 45-0 win in Cardiff.
Having had so much time to prepare for the game at the IRFU High Performance Centre in Blanchardstown, Fryday was pleased to see it all come together during their Pool B opener.
“It was a long six months for us without a game and we knew that we had put in really good training sessions in that time,” she explained during a remote press conference today.
“We knew that we were building nicely. We really were focusing on putting that in on the pitch. That was our main goal for when we got out last Saturday. I think it came together.
“I think there’s obviously things that we can improve on, but I think that we’ve shown that our hard work over the last six months has paid off and we’re in a good spot to push on now.”
As a result of last Saturday’s bonus point success, Ireland are vying for a place in the inaugural Women’s Six Nations final. Both themselves and France know that a win at Energia Park this Saturday will set up a showpiece date with England next week.
Les Bleues had an emphatic victory of their own against Wales, scoring 53 unanswered points. History has told Irish teams that France are a dangerous proposition regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in.
Yet, for the current crop of Ireland players, it will very much be an inward focus over the next few days according to Fryday.
For us, ultimately it comes back to what we can do. We’ll be focusing largely on our performance and making sure that we can improve on what we did last week.
“If we can get that improvement across the squad, then we’ll be in a good spot to put pressure on them. We’ll do our review, but it will be largely focusing on ourselves to improve on our performance.
“We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a tough test, but it’s something we’re really excited for because I think we’ll be able to really push ourselves. It will really establish where we are at as a squad.
“It’s just a game that we’re really, really excited for. I know that they play fast, but we like to play fast too. In terms of defence, we’ll be trying to get up and shut them down.
“If we can bring that intensity in defence, then we’ll shut down that tempo that they may have and if we can bring tempo on our attack, we’ll be putting their defence under pressure.
“It ultimately does come back to us as a squad making sure that we’re ready to go on both sides of our game.”
Since taking the reins in 2018, head coach Adam Griggs has been looking for ways to create squad depth across all positions. In Fryday’s own second row department, she has partnered Aoife McDermott and Ciara Cooney over the course of her last two Test appearances.
Judy Bobbett also featured on a couple of occasions in the 2020 Six Nations, while Brittany Hogan was introduced from the bench last Saturday, having done the same in last October’s win over Italy.
Getting into the matchday 23 is a challenge in itself and one that Connacht forward Fryday is happy to embrace.
“There’s such competition for spots,” the Offaly woman acknowledged. “It has been great because it pushes everyone and you could see that on the pitch. Everyone was pushing against Wales because they knew that after Wales there’d be another selection.
“You want to make sure you’re performing your best because if you don’t, there’s someone there that’s going to come and push on. Do equally as good or better. It’s great to have that competition within the squad.”
As satisfying as the performance against Wales was, Fryday and her team-mates are aware that there were elements of their display that require some fine-tuning. This is a process that will start to gather pace as the week goes on.
I think we can work on our open play. I think we can work on our phase play. I think at times maybe, we lost our way a little bit. In the second half especially.
“We know there’s definitely areas to improve in from the second half. We’ll be looking to focus on that. That will be one of our main points.”