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Monaghan: New Players Have Added Their Own Identity To The Squad

Ireland v Kazakhstan: WXV 3 2023

Ireland celebrate their record-breaking WXV3 win over Kazakhstan at The Sevens Stadium complex in Dubai ©Christopher Pike/World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

The evolution of Ireland’s second row stocks continues this weekend in Dubai with Eimear Corri stepping up for her first international start, while the Colombia game could also see Fiona Tuite make her debut off the bench.

Saturday’s second round clash with Colombia kicks off at 5pm local time/2pm Irish time. Every match is being streamed live from Dubai for free on RugbyPass TV – click here to register.

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Nichola Fryday and Sam Monaghan, one of the new co-captains, were virtually ever-present at lock during the 2022 and 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations Championships. Dorothy Wall showed her versatility by starting in the engine room against Kazakhstan last Friday.

Corri was sprung from the bench during the WXV3 opener to win her first Ireland cap, and just like the Portlaoise RFC product, Ulster’s Tuite has an athletics background and previously played on the wing. The positional switch has led both players to international recognition.

The Ireland Women (sponsored by Aon) face South American opposition for the first time ever tomorrow, and last week’s three new caps are involved again in the matchday 23. Monaghan has been impressed with what they have brought to the squad.

“We had training games against Scotland and the USA, but nothing compares to the real deal and just to get that experience behind the new players as well, have something to build off,” she said, speaking after the team to play Colombia was announced.

“Our aim is just to be better than we were last week. The new girls have added their own little identity to the squad, a new freshness. Like Sarah (Delaney), she’s the first player that’s been in Ireland Under-18 and Under-20 squads and is now playing Test rugby.

“To see her score a try off the back of that maul last week was so good. Meg (Collis) came on, first scrum they got a penalty off it.

“Eimear (Corri) has just been stuck to my side. She’s come in and bossed the lineouts. Such a fast player, you could have her on the wing at this stage, so she’s just added that pace as well to our second rows.”

Monaghan and athletic newcomer Corri called the lineouts against Kazakhstan, and it proved a real area of strength throughout the record-breaking victory.

Ireland scored more than 100 points for the first time ever in a Men’s or Women’s Test fixture, and it was the third biggest win by a European Women’s team in Test history.

Ireland’s opening performance out of touch augurs well for the rest of the season, and the real test will come during the Six Nations against higher-ranked opponents. With the increasing competition for places, Monaghan feels they are getting stronger as a set-piece unit.

“What we’ve essentially done with the lineout is we’ve gone back to basics really. We’ve stripped it all back and built a foundation from there,” explained the 30-year-old from Meath.

“With women like Eimear in the team, they’re so fast across the floor, their speed is incredible. So we’ve just tried not to overcomplicate it for this tournament and build our foundation.

“And also with the lineout getting better, the competition gets better. We’re competing on a weekly basis against each other and just making this unit stronger.”

Building and solidifying those structures is very much at the forefront of Scott Bemand’s mind as he plots a route towards qualification for the 2025 Rugby World Cup in his native England.

To get back to that level of competing for Six Nations honours and World Cup knockout places, he knows how important Ireland’s set-piece game will be. That means ensuring there is strength in depth in key positions in the pack.

“Your lineout is one of your fundamentals of the game. It can help you take pressure off and it can help you build pressure, whether it be territorial or scoreboard pressure,” said the new Ireland head coach.

Lineout set-piece, scrum, massive for our game. We’ve given the affordance of actually building the unit, time in training, specificity in training, how we’ve coached it, how we’ve built it into the fabric of what a week looks like.

“I’m hoping that’s reflected in the confidence of the group. I’m hoping you start to see that. We spoke last week about Eimear coming in and calling the lineouts – that’s a significant thing to do. She’s owned that space.

“We know going forward – Sam’s a very, very good lineout caller – but we know going to a World Cup, we’re going to need three or four people that can step in. You’re going to need options.

“What happens if you lose a lineout caller in a game? So, there’s a few things that we need to build and we’ve got a good process in place. More of the same really.”

Away from the serious business of preparing for the middle match of their inaugural WXV campaign, the girls in green have been having some memorable singing battles on the team bus and taking the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of Dubai.

Bemand was admittedly impressed by the standard of singing, noting that it is ‘a really good group, a really bonded group’ and that they could ‘produce some rockstars’ given what he has heard on their trips to and from The Sevens Stadium complex.

Monaghan played down her own vocal talents, but did reveal: “We have this game on the bus where one side is against the other and it’s like a riff off. We sing a song and then you pick a word out of that song and then the other side sings it.

“We’ve actually got some very good singers on the team, Maeve Óg (O’Leary), she’s a brilliant singer. She’s got a good beat too. Some of us aren’t so good but we still try anyway.”

While the likes of Sevens players Eve Higgins, Béibhinn Parsons and Brittany Hogan are well accustomed to Dubai as a destination on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series (now HSBC SVNS), this is the first time that an Ireland 15s squad has toured and played in the Middle East.

The players’ downtime away from the training pitch and gym has afforded them the chance to explore the local shops, restaurants and some of the city’s major attractions. In Monaghan’s case, she also managed to catch up with some familiar faces from one of Ireland’s WXV3 rivals.

“Last night was a really nice night, we went for dinner by this beach place. It was really cute and then we went to the Burj Khalifa and saw the light show.

“We waited for 20 minutes and the light show was really nice, but then they played ‘Baby Shark’ alongside the lights. So a few of us were a bit like, ‘oh’!

Cian (O’Brien), our analyst, loved it because his kids are like two and three. He was buzzing to show them the video when he got back. Luckily enough (where we’re staying), we’re connected to a mall. The girls are obsessed with those acai balls – they’ve been going to get them every other day.

“It’s quite nice actually, a few of the Spanish girls, they play alongside me at Gloucester. I’ve got to meet up with them for a coffee and just catch up. Just kind of take your mind outside of camp for a few minutes,” she added.