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Ireland are ready to inspire the next generation, says Molloy

 

By Cian Tracey

If there are any nerves in the Ireland camp, they certainly weren't on show yesterday when Tom Tierney and his players addressed the media for the final time before they begin their quest for World Cup glory.

Come 7pm this evening, however, there will be plenty of nerves and how the Ireland players manage the occasion will determine how far this journey takes them.

Tickets for the opener against Australia at the UCD Bowl have long been sold out and, as host nation, the weight of expectation on the players' shoulders will be like nothing they have ever experienced before.

Ireland hosting the World Cup is huge for women's rugby on this island and for someone like Claire Molloy, who has been through the good and bad times, she understands the lasting impact that the tournament can have.

"It's overwhelming to think about the impact that it is going to have, the legacy that World Rugby and the IRFU have created with his tournament," the captain enthused. "The trophy tour in itself was phenomenal across the island. Growing up in Galway, we would see the Sam Maguire, but now they can see the World Cup trophy.

"If I was that age I would want to play rugby for my country. That didn't exist when I was younger. Even living over in Wales, with our club Bristol we have had what we call 'legacy chats' with the young girls, telling them that you can grow up now and be a professional rugby player.

"That is a reality now for young girls starting off playing rugby. Ireland is getting there. You can have a career, the Sevens girls are full-time. You can go to an Olympics so rugby as a sport has exploded over the last nine years.

"I don't think we'll see the legacy of what we have done for the next few years. It's something I hope all the girls can take great pride in but it's something I don't want them to think about until the tournament has finished."

Momentum both on and off the field will be crucial to Ireland and despite the fact that all three of their pool games are sold out, a positive result tonight has the potential to ignite the excitement even more.

"We have seen that with the Grand Slam and 2014 win against New Zealand," the flanker recalled. "Momentum is massive in any sport and we love a bandwagon here in Ireland. Tomorrow is key, the result, really."

Australia are here to spoil the party, make no mistake about it but while they have plenty of quality in their ranks, Ireland must look to capitalise on the fact that the majority of the Wallaroos' focus in recent years has been on Sevens.

Having won gold at the Rio Olympics last year, the threat that the likes of captain Shannon Parry will pose is obvious.

Tierney has named a very fluid pack with former winger Ashleigh Baxter making a surprise move to the back-row and Paula Fitzpatrick shifting to the second-row at the expense of Sophie Spence. The uncapped scrum-half Nicole Cronin is on the bench.

As Tierney put it, he wants his side to play "top of the ground hurling". His mobile pack will aim to set the platform for Nora Stapleton to pull the strings and get dangerous strike runners like Sene Naoupu and Alison Miller involved.

"They play a very confrontational game. They brought in a lot of quality Sevens players who won Olympic medals and they will be champing at the bit," the coach warned.

Ireland, however, won't be fazed by that in the slightest. Their moment has arrived - now they must seize it.

Ireland: H Tyrrell; E Considine, J Murphy, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; L Peat, C Moloney, A Egan; P Fitzpatrick, M-L Reilly; A Baxter, C Molloy (capt), H O'Brien. Replacements: L Lyons, R O'Reilly, C O'Connor, S Spence, C Griffin, N Cronin, K Fitzhenry, M Coyne.

Australia: S Treherne; N Masters, K Sauvao, S Williams, M Murphy; T Pomare, K Barker; L Patu, C Campbell, H Samoa; C Butler, M Boyle; M Gray, S Parry (capt), G Hamilton. Replacements: E Robinson, V Tupola, H Ngha, R Clough, A Hewett, F Hake, S Riordan, A Hewson.

Referee: T Barker (Hong Kong)

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