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Bemand: What We Focused On In Training Was Evident In Bucketloads

Bemand: What We Focused On In Training Was Evident In Bucketloads

The Ireland players celebrate following their second bonus point victory of the WXV3 tournament in Dubai ©Christopher Pike/World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Ireland head coach Scott Bemand was happy to see their hard work in training come to fruition as they made it two bonus point wins on the bounce at the WXV3 tournament in Dubai.

There were ten tries scored and none conceded in a comprehensive 64-3 victory over Colombia, with a brace each from Mastercard player-of-the-match Neve Jones and Béibhinn Parsons, and first caps for Fiona Tuite and the 19-year-old Clara Barrett.

The result keeps Ireland at the top of the table and sets up a winner-takes-all clash next Saturday evening with Spain, who are also unbeaten after seeing off both Kenya (32-0) and Fiji (26-19).

Bemand was pleased with the efficiency of his team’s play against Colombia, especially with how they ran in six first half tries and did not sit back on their return to the pitch. Parsons scored just 65 seconds after the restart.

“There’s two standouts. The first half I think you can view as a whole. I said the girls were like machines. We focused on certain things in training and it was evident in bucketloads,” he said, speaking at the post-match press conference.

“Half-time we know we’re sort of 50-odd up on the scoreboard, and there can be a breathe-out piece.

“So the girls came back out and the challenge was to not breathe out, and they came out and executed on the first play and scored. I think those are the two biggies.”

As well as taking confidence from winning performances, this inaugural WXV competition affords the Ireland coaches the chance to build a playing and training identity, introduce new players to Test rugby and try out new combinations against international opposition.

Tuite and Barrett came on for their debuts during the second half, making it five new caps for Ireland in the space of a week. Even if some players do not get game-time in Dubai, Bemand pointed out how valuable their time with the group is in terms of improving squad depth.

“It’s going to be massive for Ireland (to have a strong squad) going forward. We keep talking about this squad of 30 – everyone’s got a part to play, everyone’s got growth to go after.

We’ve sort of come out and said even if it’s not about match minutes, the training minutes and the exposure to the environment will be a massive benefit both to the player and us.

“So I think both Fiona and Clara hopefully have taken something from getting on the pitch today, but they’ve been going great in training.

“They’ve been showing what they can do, so we have every trust in them that if they get an opportunity, it’s great that they can take it.”

Tuite and Barrett have taken contrasting routes to the green jersey, with the former making her name first with Old Belvedere as a back-three player before switching to the back row where, as her then-club coach Jonathan Garth said, she stood out as ‘a punishing carrier and a good defender who is also very good at the breakdown’.

The Dubliner’s impact in the second row for Ulster saw her play for the Combined Provinces XV earlier this year, and a first Ireland call-up followed when she was part of the wider squad for the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.

Mayo teenager Barrett has been ticking boxes at a rapid rate, first coming onto the radar as a try-scoring winger for the Ireland Under-18 Women’s team in April 2022. Senior experience came with both UL Bohemians and her native Connacht, including two impressive Interprovincial campaigns.

She was involved in the first ever Ireland Women’s Under-20 programme in the summer before featuring at outside centre and playing every minute of Connacht’s recent Interprovincial Championship run.

Barrett scored a try against Munster from a chip over the top by Connacht captain Nicole Fowley, who unfortunately missed out on starting the Colombia game due to injury. Young prop Megan Collis also had to be withdrawn from the matchday 23.

Ideally the pair will come back into the selection mix for the WXV3 decider, as Ireland look to take a step up against higher ranked opposition. The girls in green are currently ranked 10th in the world, with Spain, who beat them 8-7 in the 2021 Rugby World Cup qualifiers, just two places behind.

“We’re away on tour, you’re a group of 30, you’re going to get the odd niggle and unfortunately both Nicole and Meg have just had things that had we played them, there would have been an element of risk,” explained Bemand.

“We’ve got a final next week. We’ve come here, we’ve said we want to win it, we want to blood people. We had 30 people fit at the start of the week, we picked up a couple of niggles and we decided to just play a little safe with it.

“I’m hoping the medics can turn them around and they get to play a part next week in what will hopefully be a very competitive fixture.”