Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Ireland coach Philip Doyle calls for belief in Irish revenge mission

Down time: Ireland players Grace Davitt and Ashleigh Baxter soak up the sights of Paris
Down time: Ireland players Grace Davitt and Ashleigh Baxter soak up the sights of Paris

Ireland coach Philip Doyle believes his charges have "unfinished business" to carry out with the English side they face in Wednesday's Women's World Cup semi-final.

They will be breaking new ground when they enter the Stade Jean Bouin – home of Stade Francais – but there is no talk of 'bonus territory' in the Irish camp, where the eyes are firmly on the prize of reaching the final for the first time.

Having rotated his team for Saturday's initially laboured but eventually comfortable 40-5 victory over Kazakhstan, Doyle has a full deck to choose from, with Heather O'Brien expected to overcome her finger injury to join the 25 other squad members in being available.

Ireland lost heavily to the old enemy during their Six Nations defence last February as the one-time world champions reasserted their traditional dominance in the fixture after being shocked at Ashbourne during the 2013 Grand Slam run.

However, Doyle believes the experience of taking on the English at Twickenham, beating Italy at the Aviva Stadium and running the gauntlet of 15,000 baying French fans at Pau two years ago will stand to his side when they enter the arena in front of a big crowd.

Having made history by securing their qualification early in the day, Fiona Coghlan and Co could sit back and watch the permutations work their way out as England went head to head with Canada.

For much of the day, it looked like they would meet the hosts in Paris, but a draw sent England into battle with Ireland. And the hurt of this year's reverse will help fuel their ambitions.

"We feel we have unfinished business with England from this year's Six Nations," Doyle admitted.

"We have a lot to prove to ourselves with regard to them. They have been at the forefront of women's rugby in the northern hemisphere, but France and Ireland have been catching up in recent years."

The English have reached the final of the last three World Cups, going down to New Zealand each time. Ireland's win over the Black Ferns left them with too much to do to qualify for the semi-finals and the elimination of the winner of the last four instalments of this trophy has opened the door for Canada, England and France as well as Ireland.

Given their record, England will fancy their chances, but while Ireland will respect them, Doyle is confident his charges can keep their run going.

"We're in the semi-final of the World Cup, there were always going to be three other brilliant teams at this stage.

"It is not an easy competition to win, you have to beat the best," said the coach, who steps down after the tournament.

"England have a massive amount of experience, they have never missed out on the semi-finals of a World Cup and won it during the 1990s.

"That's experience we don't have, they have a good set-piece and an excellent defensive line-out. They have a decent scrum, but Peter Bracken (Ireland's scrum coach) has been looking at how Canada caused them problems.

"They have plenty of gas, Katy McLean is excellent and really attacks the gain line. Their back row of Maggy Alphonsi, Heather Fisher and Sarah Hunter are all good players, but our back row have been leading by example and Claire Molloy has been outstanding and will relish that battle."

The message is clear: Ireland respect their opponents, but they are backing their own ability. Having beaten New Zealand, why wouldn't they?

Canada, who played out a high quality draw with England, meet top seeds France in Wednesday's other semi-final.

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