Sunday 22 September 2019

Breaking Italy down early will be crucial - Moloney

Cliodhna Moloney has suddenly become one of the more experienced players. Photo: Sportsfile
Cliodhna Moloney has suddenly become one of the more experienced players. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The last time Ireland played at Donnybrook, the landscape of women's rugby in this country was far more rosy than it is now.

With a Grand Slam on the line and England coming to town, there was a real buzz and excitement around the St Patrick's Day showdown.

To add to that, the World Cup was due to take place just up the road in UCD five months later, and Ireland were expected to challenge the best teams in the world.

What happened next is well documented at this stage, but as Ireland host Italy at Donnybrook tomorrow (1.0), it's fair to say that the same vibrancy does not exist.

Defeat in France last weekend highlighted plenty of shortcomings and given that the squad only reconvened yesterday, it's difficult to know how much work can be done in one pitch session and a captain's run today.

Moving their home games to Sunday afternoons is a tougher sell, particularly because the double-header with the U-20s had drawn decent crowds, but Cliodhna Moloney is hoping that the switch can draw big support.

"What we'll lose in the Friday and Saturday night games, we'll hopefully gain more family and a younger crowd at the Sunday games," the Galway native said.

"It's really important that we get big crowds there. Hopefully it will be easier for people travelling up from the country on Sundays.

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"Change doesn't always have to be bad, it can just be a different direction we're going in."

For all of Ireland's struggles against France, they did put themselves in good scoring positions but they lacked a clinical edge. Adam Griggs' game-plan will take time to implement.

"We want to progress, we want to get the wins but sometimes it's not as easy as we would like," Moloney admitted. "Obviously France away in your first game is always going to be a tough encounter but we didn't perform as we would like to, regardless of who it was.

"We lost a lot of experience after the World Cup.

"But the fact that there is a new management and coaching structures in place, obviously we have a new game-plan as well, it helps with the feeling that we are on a new, clean slate."

Moloney has suddenly become one of the more experienced players in the squad but the hooker is still finding her way in terms of becoming more of a vocal presence.

"I don't feel like I am around that long," she maintained. "I got my first cap in 2015. I suppose I have been around the most of the squad for the guts of three years.

"I wouldn't see myself as a leader or anything like that, not through speaking or having any kind of a leadership role but I would like to think that I lead through my actions in how we play and train together."

Since coming in as scrum coach, Mike Ross has already had an impact and Moloney insisted that the former Ireland tighthead is helping to push her side in the right direction again.

"He's got a great way about him. He's very simple and direct.

"The scrum is obviously very technical but you can over-complicate it at times. The best motto he has given us is that we need to go forward. He'll tell us the simplest and best ways to do that."

Such was the bruising nature of last week's defeat, Moloney found herself in the back-row for the latter part of the game, but it's a position that is not too unfamiliar to her.

"I didn't expect to play 80 minutes, and I certainly didn't expect to be playing 20 minutes in the back-row," she laughed. "I do it at club level and I think I went there for a little bit at the World Cup in the last game against Wales."

Italy pushed England for 40 minutes last week and went into the break level with them.

They will be typically dogged in Dublin tomorrow, but this is a game that should offer Ireland the chance to build confidence in how they are trying to play under Griggs.

"We'll be trying to break them down a lot earlier than England did," Moloney added. "We don't want it to be a tight contest for as long as it was for England."

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland Women - K Flood; M Williams, F Kitzhenry, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Briggs, A Hughes; L Peat, C Moloney, F Reidy; P Fitzpatrick, N Fryday; A Caplice, C Molloy, C Griffin (capt). Reps: L Lyons, L Feely, C O'Connor, O Fitzsimons, E McMahon, N Cronin, M Claffey, C McLaughlin.

Italy Women - M Furlan; S Stefan, M Sillari, B Rigoni, M Magatti; J Busato, S Barattin (capt); E Ricci, M Bettoni, L Gai; V Ruzza, G Duca; B Veronese, I Locatelli, I Arrighetti. Reps: S Turani, G Durante, M Merlo, M Pagani, G Franco, A Corbucci, A M Gizzi, A Muzzo.

REF - T Baker (Hong Kong)

  • Ireland women v Italy women, Live RTÉ2, tomorrow, 1.0

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