Sunday 21 December 2014

Briggs determined to end the pain of Black Wednesday

Cian Tracey

Published 01/08/2014 | 02:30

Niamh Briggs isn't looking any further than today's match against the USA. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Niamh Briggs isn't looking any further than today's match against the USA. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

IRELAND full-back Niamh Briggs has vowed that her side will not be letting sentimentality get in the way when they embark on their World Cup campaign.

Head coach Philip Doyle has confirmed that he will leave his post after the competition and bring an end to a hugely successful second spell in charge of Ireland.

But Briggs insists that the players cannot allow that to influence their mindset as they look to build on the success of last year's Grand Slam.

"He's 'Mr Women's Rugby' in this country. He's really driven the game on and a lot of our success has been down to him," Briggs said.

"He hasn't mentioned it, but it's definitely something that's in the back of our minds.

"We really want to make sure that we give him the send-off he deserves."

Ireland open Pool B with a game against USA – a team they beat in the last World Cup, but subsequently lost to in the knockout stages.

Briggs, who was a key member of that side, admits that the pain of that defeat still lingers, but that Ireland must use that hurt to their benefit.

"We still refer to that loss as 'Black Wednesday.' It really hurt having beaten them in the pool stages, but we didn't back it up when it mattered, so it didn't count for much. We do feel like we owe them one," the Waterford native said.

"We're not really looking past America. We know that they're always big and physical.

"They're super athletes, but cycles change every four years, so I don't think the previous World Cup results will count for much."

Ireland warmed up for the World Cup with impressive victories over Wales (27-7) and Spain (36-20) and, according to Briggs, the squad are in a much better place than they were four years ago.

"We're improving all the time and you can see that in our patterns of play and results. The squad sessions behind the scenes have been really good and positive.

"The squad is gelling really well, but that extends far beyond the starting team. We have 32 players who are all pushing each other hard and everyone wants to be involved.

"We're in a much better place both mentally and physically than we were four years ago," she added.

Given that Briggs is one of the more experienced members of the squad, she has taken on more of a leadership role as she looks to pass on her experience to some of the younger players.

"We've spoken about what to expect in France especially to the girls who haven't played at a World Cup before, but I have absolutely no worries over them – they'll be ready."

That balance between youth and experience is something that Ireland are hoping will be the catalyst to another stepping stone in the development of women's rugby in this country.

IRELAND V USA, LIVE, TG4, 3.50

Irish Independent

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