THE FACT THAT Ireland will go into tomorrow’s Six Nations tie with an unchanged side for the first time in six years underpins this team’s search for cohesion.
And against Wales last weekend, they looked like a settled unit with a strong sense of direction in their game plan. After six months of only training camps to sharpen their focus, staleness would have been an obvious danger for Adam Griggs’ side.
But there were encouraging signs coming from the group even before that 45-0 demolition effort in Cardiff. Aoife McDermott and Kathryn Dane were both selected to address the media before that game, and had nothing but positive messages to report from the training camps.
“I think we’re the fittest, strongest and fastest we’ve ever been,” McDermott beamed at the time.
Of course, the enthusiasm would be worthless without a performance to support the claims. And by half-time, Ireland were already delivering on those promising signs, leading the Welsh by 31 points.
Errors crept into their play as they headed towards the break and more mistakes followed after the restart. But match rustiness that has been stretching back for half a year was always going to impact their game.
Sustaining an advantage like the one they had built up in the first half would have meant winning the game by close to 100 points. That was never likely to happen.
That patchy spell aside, Ireland were electric all over the field. Beibhinn Parsons and Dorothy Wall have been drawing all the plaudits for their standout displays. 19-year-old Parsons pocketed two tries in four minutes and was her usual elusive self on the wings, while Wall was a dominant force in the Irish pack.
In Hannah Tyrrell, they have a settled choice at out-half. Her half-back partnership with Dane might only be two games old since their win over Italy last year, but it was a highlight from last weekend according to Ireland head coach Griggs.
“While they’ve only had two games together, what we’ve seen in training camps is really growing between them. And the understanding I think that’s a core of your team.
“They touched the ball the most and incidentally, the way we want to play, they need to be on the ball and making good decisions. I think that’ll be really important to us.”
This weekend presents a much tougher challenge for Ireland. France, who are a semi-professional side, have also beaten Wales in this year’s Six Nations, winning by a slightly superior margin of 53 points.
Their forwards and backs contributed to that massive scoreline.
Winger Caroline Boujard, who has been named to start again in Donnybrook, scored three tries in the first 15 minutes of that game. France also have very effective maul power which forced Wales to concede scores in their meeting.
As Murray Kinsella pointed out in this weeks edition of The42 Rugby Weekly podcast, France have “real power and size in their pack that Ireland are going to be really weary of.”
Head coach Annick Hayraud has made eight changes to her side for this Pool B decider with Ireland with a Six Nations title decider against most likely England on offer.