Irish 'excited' about facing Black Ferns on world stage
IRELAND will take on world champions New Zealand for the first time at next year's Women's World Cup in France having been drawn in the same pool as the Black Ferns.
Captain Fiona Coghlan felt that the task facing her side would be both exciting and unpredictable after they managed to avoid meeting any of their Six Nations rivals and instead will take on the Kiwis, Kazakhstan and the United States next August.
The Grand Slam champions will be hoping to build on their brilliant 2012/13 season when they open their Six Nations defence in February, but Coghlan knows that there will be more pressure on Ireland after the publicity that came with their success this year.
"There's always going to be expectations on you when you win, and the public are going to be more conscious of us too," she said.
"Like the men's game, it's tough enough to win it and it's even tougher to retain it. But we've developed as well and hopefully we can take it to a new level.
"I am excited about playing New Zealand, but then they won't have played much rugby in the past four years. They'd have played England, but in between World Cups you don't get to see them playing much.
"The USA play in the Nations Cup, but you wouldn't see or hear much about their players, while Kazakhstan you wouldn't hear anything about."
Ireland finished seventh in the 2010 World Cup in England, but Coghlan believes that Philip Doyle will have a wider range of options to pick from next year.
"With the reintroduction of the exiles into the system, we have a wider base to choose from – not just in Ireland, but in the Irish girls playing in the Premiership in England," she said. "And the standard that the players are at in Ireland, and over there, is higher than it was four years ago.
"We started earlier than we normally do, which was great because we had a good pre-season. It's different because you are looking to peak twice in a year, which is tough. With the World Cup it's five games in three weeks.
"In 2010, by the fourth game against the USA, we were really tired. We were looking for points difference to try and get to the semi-final, so we had to play our strongest team. We didn't make the semis, so we were in the 5-8 play-offs and we were tired then because we weren't able to rotate."
The fixtures for next year's tournament will be confirmed at a later date, with the pool winners and the best runners up qualifying for the semi-finals, the next four teams playing off for fifth to eighth place and the bottom four competing for ninth to 12th.
2014 WOMEN'S RUGBY WORLD CUP POOLS:
Pool A: England, Canada, Spain, Samoa
Pool B: New Zealand, USA, Ireland, Kazakhstan
Pool C: Australia, France, Wales, South Africa