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‘Win Your First Game, Regroup, See What’s Next’ – Flood

‘Win Your First Game, Regroup, See What’s Next’ – Flood

‘Win Your First Game, Regroup, See What’s Next’ – Flood

Scrum half Stacey Flood, who turned 26 last month, is a key player in the Ireland Women's squad that will play at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Stacey Flood is hoping the Ireland Women can achieve ‘something special’ when she competes in her second Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Cape Town this weekend.

One of five members of the current squad that finished sixth in San Francisco four years ago, Flood is embracing the World Cup experience and determined to make a splash at the game’s global showpiece.

Aiden McNulty’s Ireland side (sponsored by TritonLake) made big strides in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this season, winning silver in Seville and bronze in Langford on the way to a best ever overall finish of fourth place.

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Transferring that impressive form onto the World Cup stage is the goal in the coming days, with the straight knockout format – retained from its debut Stateside in 2018 – leaving precious little margin for error.

Speaking ahead of Ireland’s round of 16 clash with Brazil on Friday, Flood said: “The structure is crazy but, at the same time, it suits Sevens I think, because in Sevens anything can happen. You can win or lose in a blink of an eye.

“I think that all-or-nothing stakes, and that knockout – you either win or lose, you’re either in or you’re out – kind of suits the game of Sevens.

“It’s tough but four (knockout) games to win a World Cup, I don’t think you hear of that in many other sports which is quite exciting.”

If Ireland can make a winning start to the tournament in South Africa, they will be one of eight teams left standing on Saturday and face a quarter-final clash with either defending champions New Zealand or Colombia.

Flood and her team-mates will not be getting ahead of themselves though, as Brazil are tricky opening opponents and have players of the calibre of captain Luiza Campos, Bianca Silva and Thaila Costa to call on.

The Brazilians, who have seven squad members who were involved in last year’s Olympic Games, took the lead twice when they played Ireland most recently, during the Toulouse leg of the World Series in May.

However, two closing tries from Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe steered the girls in green to a hard-fought 17-14 victory that day. Flood is targeting an improved all-round performance.

“I watched that game back, it wasn’t our finest game but we got there in the end,” admitted the Dublin-born playmaker. “It was a tough game. Brazil are tough opponents, quite speedy, (they) have a lot of pace.

“So, hopefully we’ve created the right game-plan to beat them and (we) can get over the line and get a win.”

Since qualifying for the World Cup through the Rugby Europe route in July, the Ireland Women had a well-deserved two-week break before getting through ‘a tough block of training’ at their base in the IRFU High Performance Centre.

There has not been much acclimatising to do following the squad’s arrival in South Africa, with similar temperatures to back home – a high of 20 degrees has been forecast for Friday’s opening day – and just an hour in the time difference.

Getting to play the host nation and other teams in warm-up games has also aided Ireland’s preparations, as Flood explained: “We got out here last week and we went up to Stellenbosch where the South African Sevens train. Had a few hit-outs there against South Africa, France and the USA.

“We travelled down here to Cape Town on Sunday, and we’ve two more trainings this week before we play Brazil on Friday.”

Like many of her team-mates, Flood is delighted to have some family members flying out to support the team. Her oldest sister Lynn and mother Angela are coming out, while her other sister Kim, a former Sevens and 15s international, and her mum were in the stands at the last Sevens World Cup.

The 2018 tournament evokes fond memories, upsetting England still standing out for Stacey as ‘one of my favourite games of all-time’, and finishing sixth was a jump of three places in terms of Ireland’s seeding.

Hopefully this World Cup has something special to bring as well. It’s been a great season for us, to keep building and not just make it a once-off medal, but to do it twice and perform well throughout the year.

“We’ve been building and getting better, and hopefully we can do ourselves a bit of justice this weekend.”

With the traditional pool stages of a World Series put aside, the World Cup is certainly a tournament like no other. It requires teams to hit the ground running and maintain winning form across a shorter amount of fixtures, but three days in all.

The Ireland Women know they can mix it with the best teams in the world. They are a threat to anyone on their day and come into the World Cup with renewed confidence, following four successive top four finishes in World Series tournaments.

Flood, who also helped Ireland to make history by winning the Krakow 7s title in July, concluded: “It’s a one-game-at-a-time attitude. Obviously the goal is to win a World Cup, get a medal at a World Cup, like everyone else who is coming here.

“First things first, you have to go out and win your first game because in Sevens, as I said, anything can happen and it can be a hit or miss kind of game. Win your first game, regroup, regather and see what’s next.”