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Ireland must get back to basics after World Cup shambles


By Cian Tracey

The Ireland women's team currently find themselves in a tricky position.

While most of the players are still amateurs, the standards that they have set and demand of one another means that they will naturally be judged in a high regard.

If you consider that prior to the World Cup they set their minimum requirement as reaching the semi-finals, the tournament has to go down as a failure.

When the IRFU created three full-time professional women's coaching positions for the first time in 2014, it was rightly heralded as a huge step in the right direction. With a home World Cup on the horizon, it made sense to put proper structures in place but it hasn't quite panned out the way many had hoped.

When Philip Doyle vacated his post three years ago after guiding Ireland to a first win over New Zealand en route to a World Cup semi-final, he left the house in good order.

Yes, stalwarts like Fiona Coghlan and Lynne Cantwell retired soon after, but the majority of the pack that started the defeat to France on Thursday were central to Ireland reaching that semi-final in 2014.

The foundations had been laid, but somewhere along the line someone took their eye off the ball, or rather redirected their focus elsewhere.

Setting up a full-time Sevens programme was another landmark moment, but the writing has long been on the wall about where the priority lies. The decision to send three key players to a Sevens tournament rather than play a crucial Six Nations game against France in February left a sour taste.

Ireland managed to beat France without the 'Las Vegas Three', but was everything as rosy as it seemed? Former international Fiona Steed has an interesting take: "We don't have the depth in the player pool to play both (codes) at the moment.

"And that's the crux. They beat France and everybody was like 'Oh well it's fine, it's justified. We went after a few other players'. In some ways, that papered over the cracks that exist."

To their credit, the IRFU have provided the resources. The women's team spent much of the build-up training in the union's High Performance Unit, but yet there was little evidence to suggest that any improvements have been made since the Six Nations.

Tom Tierney, whose contract expires at the end of the year, repeatedly told us this was the best prepared Ireland team to head into a World Cup.

"I think the whole situation needs to be looked at, but will the IRFU look at it?" Steed wonders, and she isn't the only one.

"Did they use everything that they had at their disposal? Greg Feek was up in the stands (against France). He's obviously a good scrummaging coach. After the implosion of the scrum in the first two matches, was someone like him brought in to look at it?"

No one expects Ireland to be world beaters, but this group of players have not shown what they are capable of.

The powers that be must now determine if that was their fault or the coaches' because, if the current trend continues, Ireland will be left behind by the other top nations

A review from top to bottom is imperative.

Belfast Telegraph


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