Wednesday 23 August 2017

Reilly: We are ready for emotionally charged Wales clash

Marie Louise Reilly. Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile
Marie Louise Reilly. Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Managing the occasion this morning will be just as important as the game itself as Ireland Women look to keep alive their hopes of repeating 2013's Grand Slam success.

On the pitch, Wales' campaign has been hugely inconsistent, off it they have had to deal with the horrendous tragedy of the passing of their team-mate Elli Norkett.

It has been a hugely difficult time for the Welsh squad and several special tributes are planned ahead of kick-off at the Cardiff Arms Park.

The atmosphere is sure to highly emotional and while Ireland will look to play their part, they will also be mindful of getting caught up in it.

"It's going to be difficult," lock Marie Louise Reilly admitted.

"We've sent a message of support over to the Wales Rugby Union because rugby is a bit of a family.

"It's something that as players we need to acknowledge, but we also need to use that as an opportunity to be part of what can be a great match and a great atmosphere and something that will hopefully do her proud."

Ireland's gritty win over France kept them on course for a St Patrick's Day showdown with England but they must not take their eye off the ball against a Wales side eager to put in a performance befitting of Norkett's memory.

Their defeat to Scotland last time out was a major upset as they handed the Scots their first Six Nations victory in seven years, but Reilly (pictured) is refusing to read too much into that.

"For people looking on, they'll be saying that we won there previously and Wales have had a bit of a bad run at the moment but as a player, you see that as a potential banana skin as well," she insisted.

"Wales are going to be hurting and with the tragedy that they had within the squad, they are going to looking to put in a massive performance and to really come together as a squad and do that person proud."

Reilly's partnership with Sophie Spence in the engine room will be crucial. If Ireland can get the edge on Wales up front early on, they have the fire-power out wide to cause damage.

"Having a settled front-row and pack. . . we're working well together now," Reilly said.

"From a lineout point of view, we seem to have done well over the last while so we'll be looking to continue that.

"They're going to be a massive opposition. Wales at home are always very difficult. We've struggled there in the past to get a win against them.

"We've done well in the last little while but no doubt, it will be another huge challenge.

"Were just trying to concentrate on getting the basics right. In the November Series and the warm-up match against Wales, they were the things that let us down.

"We've gone back and concentrated on our skill base and with that, confidence has grown."

Verdict: Ireland

Wales Women - D Hywel; E Evans, K Lake, R de Filippo, A Tayiner; R Wilkins, K Bevan; C Thomas, C Phillips (capt), A Evans; R Rowe, M Clay; S Harries, R Taylor, S Powell-Hughes. Reps: L Harries, C Hale, G Pyrs, S Lillicrap, A Butchers, R Parker, E Snowsill, G Rowland.

Ireland Women - K Flood; H Tyrrell, J Murphy, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, M Healy, L Peat, L Lyons, A Egan; S Spence, M-L Reilly; C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick (capt). Reps: C O'Connor, I Van Staden, R O'Reilly, C Cooney, N Fryday, L Muldoon, N Caughey, M Coyne.

Wales Women v Ireland Women, Live, RTE2, 11.30am

Irish Independent

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