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Irish ladies team will get even stronger, says Spence

 

By Cian Tracey

Long after the euphoria that shook the UCD Bowl had died down, the Ireland squad made the short trip back to their campus accommodation pleased with their night's work but deeply aware that major improvements are needed before they play France next Thursday.

Before that there is the small matter of dealing with Japan, and, as much as the coaches and players will likely hype up the challenge that lies ahead on Sunday, it should, in reality, be no more than a formality.

There is no doubt that Ireland benefited hugely from Australia's lack of preparation time as the Wallaroos opted to put all their eggs in the Sevens basket, but a gutsy win with plenty of work-ons is a fine start.

To add to the feel-good atmosphere, Jenny Murphy, who came off injured, was given the all-clear by the medics to hand Tom Tierney a full deck to pick from.

Consistency in selection will have a major say in how far this journey takes Ireland, but a four-day turnaround after a physical encounter may tempt the coach to make changes against Japan.

Much was made of Tierney's decision to leave Sophie Spence on the bench on Wednesday and, even though his plan worked to perfection, her impact, as well as Ciara Griffin's, was so powerful that neither can be too far away from a starting berth.

Improvements are needed across the board, particularly in the scrum and at half-back, where Ireland's attacking platform must be based if they are to challenge the best teams.

"You can't go into a first game and everything is going to be perfect," Spence maintained. "You've got to fix things as you go along. We are an extremely tight squad and as we go through things to take that next step, we'll get better and better."

The expectation is that Ireland will get better. After all, this is a side who generally take a couple of games to find their feet.

The last three years have been spent building a squad with enough depth and quality to challenge for the World Cup and, even though it remains to be seen if the IRFU have managed to achieve that, Spence is in no doubt that her side are ready.

"We've been building in different positions," the lock added. "We've had girls come from different sports. The preparations that we've had have made different combinations work together so we have created more depth."

The Japan game should allow Ireland to make improvements, but they must also be mindful of taking their opponents too lightly. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence.

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