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Ireland's not so secret way to Six Nations success: give it to Parsons

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Ireland's Beibhinn Parsons goes past Elinor Snowsill of Wales

Ireland's Beibhinn Parsons goes past Elinor Snowsill of Wales

�INPHO/Robbie Stephenson

Ireland's Beibhinn Parsons goes past Elinor Snowsill of Wales

During the 1995 Men's World Cup, a fax arrived at the Cape Town hotel where the All Blacks were billeted before their semi-final in Newlands against England.

There were hundreds of them, in fact, but this one entered folklore for it read, simply: "Remember rugby is a team game so make sure all 14 of you pass the ball to Jonah".

The following day, it might be averred that the team obeyed the orders of their anonymous fan as the hulking Jonah Lomu scored four tries in a semi-final demolition. He had turned 20 that summer.

Bébihinn Parsons is just 19 but when she stormed in from the left-hand touchline in the 11th minute of Saturday's remorseless rout of woeful Wales, burning Lisa Neumann with pace and bouncing Rachel Wilkins with power, it was difficult not to fondly recall the great and gentle Kiwi.

The impact of the Ballinasloe bomber on the Irish rugby scene is an electric one and, even as one dutifully records the collective excellence that supported her, a sport that is gasping for oxygen in this country needs an individual icon to emerge.

Another brace on Saturday - she has now notched four against Wales alone - has brought her try tally to five in just nine starts.

At times, the magnetic force of the game seems to tilt towards her left wing and there you see her, hands hungrily extended in front of her, just waiting for the pass to set her upon a joyous path to freedom.

It would be patronising and simplistic to assume that Ireland's plan is simply get the ball to Parsons. But then again, it wouldn't be entirely untruthful, either.

"It has to be, I mean look at her!" marvels full-back Eimear Considine, the final passer in what was in reality a fairly laboured first-phase move from a rock-solid scrum.

"She's a phenomenal athlete. Why wouldn't you want to get the ball to her? She is a nightmare to tackle, a nightmare to be up against. I am just glad she is on our team."

Considine, who also notched a brace when cramp was the biggest challenge in her first game in 13 months, was standing beside Parsons awaiting a deft Hannah Tyrrell cross-kick two minutes after the winger's opener in a 45-0 win against Wales.

"It was going to be me or her - and if it was her I was going to try and block the defenders coming through on her. But she had called it and she finished in the corner."

Even Considine wouldn't dare to argue.

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"No! When I was on the wing I had that glory, I don't have that at 15."

An impending clash - presuming it is not delayed for a second year in succession - with Montpellier's Caroline Boujard, who scored a 14-minute hat-trick against the hapless Welsh, promises to be an explosive individual tussle on the edge as these nations play off for the right to meet England in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations final.

The Irish team were recorded as making over 1,000 metres in the match - a frankly ludicrous amount which further demeaned the negligence of the opposition effort - Parsons herself managed to gallop, mostly untrammelled, 173 metres in just nine carries.

Captain Ciara Griffin senses not merely the rugby energy oozing from the UCD student but also the emotional intelligence.

"Béibhinn is brilliant," says Griffin, who in the guise of another Sevens exile Dorothy Wall has another astonishingly mature 21-year-old powerhouse beside her in the back-row.

"Béibhinn is an old head on young shoulders and she works hard, you can see that. We now go into the France game with confidence. She backs herself and that's what you need in that position."

"People talk about a star in the making," enthused Ireland's 2013 Grand Slam-winning captain Fiona Coghlan. "No, this star is made."

Her successor cannot afford to be so wildly indulgent.

For the earthy Griffin, there is a sense that although there is an obvious temptation for outsiders to be drawn to one shining star, for her the constellation is integral to a side who, amidst pandemic purgatory, have sparked somewhat of a renaissance.

"She's a very special player," says Griffin, before delivering a rock of Castle Island sense. "But this squad has 40-plus really special players.

"We may only have had 26 players out there against Wales but in our minds we had all 40 of our squad.

"What this performance shows is the dedication and work of that squad over the last six months in terms of work rate, working at home, working in camp.

"That really was a whole squad effort and performance."

WALES : R Wilkins (N Terry 41); L Neumann, H Jones, K Lake, C Keight (C Lewis 33); E Snowsill, J Roberts (M Davies 29); C Hope (C Thomas 41), K Jones (M Kelly 40), C Hale (D Rose 41), N John (T W Davies 56), G Crabb, G Evans, M Johnes (B Dainton 56), S Lillicrap.

IRELAND : E Considine (E Breen 63); L Delany (S Flood 54), E Higgins, S Naoupu, B Parsons; H Tyrrell, K Dane (H O'Connor 63); L Peat (K O'Dwyer 59), C Moloney (L Feely 64), L Djougang (N Jones 64), A McDermott, D Wall (B Hogan 59), C Molloy, C Griffin (E Lane 63).

Referee: H Davidson (SRU).


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