While acknowledging the scale of the challenge awaiting in Toulouse this weekend, Ireland Assistant Coach Niamh Briggs is hugely optimistic over the future and the direction the team are going in under new Head Coach Greg McWilliams.
Former Ireland captain Briggs joined McWilliams coaching team at the start of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, and although the Championship opened with a narrow defeat to Wales at The RDS last weekend, there is plenty to be positive about as the group prepare for Saturday’s clash against France (Kick-off 2.15pm Irish time, live on RTE).
Briggs has been working closely with Ireland’s backs, developing the individual talent within the group while fine-tuning the team’s attack, and certainly the signs have been good, with a young Ireland team displaying some exciting rugby during Round 1.
“I think when you look at the group, and I’m not just talking about the seven, eight, nine backs that were involved last weekend. You look at the wider backline group that we have in our 38-woman squad. I generally have a real big buzz about where we can go and what we can do as a group,” Briggs said during Tuesday’s media conference.
“When you know that you’re working with players with a huge amount of talent and you’re trying to just educate them and develop them in the right way, it’s easy to remain patient because you know they are not far off it. From that point of view, it hasn’t been too bad at all because I can see the direction we are going in and it really excites me.”
Briggs joined David Gannon and Rob Sweeney on McWilliams’ new-look coaching team having worked with UL Bohemians in the Energia All-Ireland League and Munster in the Vodafone Women’s Inter-Provincial Series in recent seasons.
An incredibly driven and competitive player during her days in green, Briggs jokes she’s not less ‘cantankerous’ as a coach.
“I’m definitely much more patient, but I am also very aware. I generally get a real big buzz about where we can go and what we can do as a group. When you know that you’re working with players with a huge amount of talent and you’re trying to just educate them and develop them in the right way, it’s easy to remain patient because you know they are not far off it.
“So, from that point of view, yeah it hasn’t been too bad at all [the transition] because I can see the direction we are going in and that really excites me.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s Round 2 showdown in Toulouse, Briggs continued: “France are very good. For me, they’re definitely up there with England. They were incredibly good in the autumn against New Zealand. Just a very big, powerful team that can play. I’ve never been in a position to beat them over there and I think that’s going to be a huge task for us, but I think we’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves.
“Understand where we are as a group, where we’re going and then continue to grow and develop from our side as opposed to looking at them.”