Tuesday 26 September 2017

A lot of work done, but still more to do

France’s Louis Picamoles brushes off Ireland’s Rory Best during Saturday’s clash. Photo: Franck Fife/Getty Images
France’s Louis Picamoles brushes off Ireland’s Rory Best during Saturday’s clash. Photo: Franck Fife/Getty Images

Fiona Coghlan

It's always a great weekend when the French head home without a win. Everyone knows they are capable of a performance, but no one can tell when it will come. Thankfully, it didn't arrive over this weekend and this was as much to do with us as it was to do with them.

There was almost a sigh of relief when the final whistle blew in both the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and in Donnybrook yesterday, because beating France is never a sure thing.

The men's game wasn't the most beautiful spectacle I've seen, but it was engrossing all the same and the work ethic was phenomenal.

There were missed tackles and simple errors, but there was always someone on hand to pick up the slack. The pack worked hard and everyone did their jobs.

It was selfless stuff and it illustrated just how tight this team is. Galvanised is a word that has left my lips frequently over the last few days and Joe Schmidt's side were definitely that.

When a team suffers a defeat like Ireland did against Scotland in the opening game of the tournament, the review, dissection and evaluation that follows can often make or break a squad. Home truths are told and they can hurt.

This Ireland team seems to have reacted in the best possible way; they are closer than ever and willing to go that extra mile for each other.

So too are the women, and they showed that in Donnybrook yesterday. It was going to be a tough ask to beat France, especially with an under-strength team, but they pulled it off and the victory was so sweet for all.

The outpouring of emotion on the pitch from the players after the game spoke volumes. This wasn't a standard Six Nations win; it was a battle far greater than what happened on the field.

The team were annoyed that certain players were taken from their squad for the Sevens World Series in Las Vegas and they reacted accordingly. It's not the best reason to perform, but perform they did, and they were much better against France than they have been throughout the campaign.

In saying that, France really imploded, as they failed to do the simple things right. They were knocking on balls and their lineout didn't function, but that's not to take away from the Irish performance.

Ireland put them under pressure and took advantage of basic errors. The pack was outstanding and gave a really mature, controlled performance. They knew they had the experience to match the French pack and they did more than that, they overawed them. The second-row partnership of Sophie Spence and Marie-Louise Reilly was impressive, particularly in the lineouts.

Vision

There were great showings all over; Jenny Murphy was excellent and made telling hits, while Nora Stapleton showed great vision. Our leaders stood up when they had to and it was brilliant.

After the game, Paula Fitzpatrick mentioned professionalism a couple of times. Ireland might not be a professional team, but having standards that match is part of our motto and philosophy.

The resources are improving, there are extra camps, more time is being spent as a team and strength and conditioning is available all year round. We are on the right track, but the pathways need to improve if we want to see players coming through.

Try scorer Leah Lyons and Claire McLaughlin are great success stories. They have come through the ranks from club to international level. They will improve with experience and the future looks bright when players like this are being developed.

Ireland have two games left in the Six Nations and the World Cup is looming. They were impressive yesterday, but it's a case of a lot done, still lots more to do.

Irish Independent

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