Doyle insists Irish not fazed by mammoth England task
As lion's dens go, Guildford in Surrey doesn't have the most imposing ring to it but Ireland kick off their Women's Rugby World Cup campaign there this evening in the most imposing of circumstances.
While the distinctly inoffensive surrounds of the affluent Home Counties may not create an intimidating atmosphere off the pitch, Philip Doyle's charges are fully focused on the intimidating opponents awaiting them on it.
Kicking off a World Cup campaign is always daunting, but to do so against the hosts, Grand Slam champions and the beaten finalists in the last two tournaments is another kettle of fish. Throw in the fact that Ireland have never beaten an English side that boasts 689 caps among their squad and the mammoth task is laid bare.
But new coach Doyle is hopeful his team can kick the tournament off with a shock.
"Hopefully we can surprise them," he said. "(Not having beaten them before) is a psychological barrier. You've got two hurdles to jump here -- you've got to beat them in a World Cup, and beat them for the first time.
"We work very hard on our psychological preparation with the girls. They won't be fazed by it. They know they are there for the taking. Every underdog has its day, so let's hope Friday is our day."
Ireland lost 22-5 to the same opponents in nearby Esher last season and are hoping for a marked improvement. After facing England, Ireland take on the USA and Kazakhstan to qualify from Pool B.
Experienced scrum-half Louise Beamish is relishing a shot at her third World Cup and she says the women's game has come on leaps and bounds in her nine years at the top.
"We started out staying in each others houses overnight for training, bringing packed lunches and things like that," she said. "With the recognition of the IRFU, there have been huge improvements in training conditions and support.
"We keep bringing down the scorelines and the only team we haven't beaten is England so that's our next scalp."
England v Ireland,
Live, Sky Sports 2, 6.30
IRELAND (squad v England) -- N Briggs (Clonmel/Munster); A Davis (Blackrock/Leinster), J O'Sullivan (Richmond/Exile), L Cantwell (UL Bohemians), N Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster); H Brosnan (Highfield/Munster), T Rosser (Blackrock/Leinster); F Coghlan (capt, UL Bohemians/Munster), G Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), L Austin (UL Bohemians/Munster); K O'Loughlin (Clonmel/Munster), ML Reilly (Navan/Leinster); O Brennan (Blackrock/Leinster), C Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), J Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster). Reps: Y Nolan (Blackrock/Leinster), L Guest (Highfield/Munster), C Staunton (Galwegians/Connacht), S Ryan (Blackrock/Leinster), L Beamish (UL Bohemian/Munster), S Houston (Blackrock/Leinster), M Kelly (UL Bohemians/Munster).