Ireland and Italy are on a collision course for Musgrave Park this Sunday (kick-off 5pm), as they both look to bounce back from comprehensive TikTok Women’s Six Nations defeats. Click here to buy tickets for Ireland v Italy.
A first win of the 2022 Championship is the prize on offer in Cork, and it would have added significance for Ireland with Greg McWilliams’ coaching reign getting off to a frustrating start results-wise over the first fortnight.
Lucy Mulhall made her Six Nations debut against Wales and backed it up with an industrious 80-minute performance against France. The focus now shifts to Italy and posting their first victory of the new era.
“It’s massive for us as a team,” admitted Mulhall, who has played in the centre and on the wing during her three Test starts for Ireland so far.
“We have seen that Italy massively put it up to France last week, so it’s not going to be an easy one. If we take the positives from the last two weeks, I think we can be a pretty unstoppable team. We just have to learn from the mistakes.”
Those errors, a number of them uncharacteristic ones in the heat of battle, proved costly against the French who showed how clinical they can be in moving into a 26-0 half-time lead.
However, Ireland will draw encouragement from the 14-5 second half verdict in Toulouse with lively centre Eve Higgins crossing for a try that came from some excellent phase-building.
Mulhall started it off, fielding a kick and launching Beibhinn Parsons on the counter as Ireland took the French through upwards of a dozen phases. Linda Djougang, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Stacey Flood had key involvements in the attack.
It is exactly the type of exciting attack-minded rugby that Mulhall and her team-mates want to produce on a regular basis, and more training time and match minutes together will hopefully lead to better performances and results.
“It’s about trying to put in a performance that lives up to the jersey. We wanted to do the simple things well and that’s what really let us down. If we can tidy those things up, I think we can achieve in the short-term while still having long-term goals.
It’s a very expansive way to play and I think that plays to our strengths. You see the try last week with Sam Monaghan’s offload to Linda. They are the sort of players that we have.
“It’s about striking the right balance between respecting possession in the right areas of the field and then playing that exciting brand of rugby.
“That’s where we want to get to as a team. I think there are a lot of things (from the France defeat) that are very quick fixes. If we can just turn them around this week, I think it’s really exciting going into the Italy game.”
The girls in green will be targeting a strong start against Italy, having allowed both Wales and France to dominate possession early on. The all-weather pitch in Cork should get this talented Irish back-line firing on all cylinders.
Mulhall added: “If you give a French team that much possession, they are always going to come out on top. I know I let myself down on very basic skills. I don’t think it’s down to nerves. We had a sharp warm-up.
“We just handed them the ball back far too many times and can’t really live against the French with those sort of errors. We never wanted to just come here and fulfil the fixture. We knew we could hurt them if we had the ball.
“The second half was definitely better from us, but we need to look at how we start the game and how we manage that, so that we’re still in game and not having given away that bonus point.”