Tuesday 24 October 2017

Experienced Muldoon relishing competition for places

Muldoon: Building phase. Photo: Sportsfile
Muldoon: Building phase. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Having just turned 25, Larissa Muldoon can hardly be considered an elder stateswoman of the Irish squad but she certainly falls into the 'experienced' category.

Having made her debut as a 19-year old, the Donegal native has seen plenty of changes in women's rugby in this country.

She played an integral role in the side that won the Grand Slam in 2013 as well as the Six Nations title last year.

Muldoon is in line to win her 35th cap against Scotland tomorrow as Ireland aim to preserve their unbeaten record since moving to Donnybrook.

It's been a horrendous Six Nation campaign for Scotland, who are the only side without a win, and while Ireland won't defend their title, there have been plenty of positives, according to Muldoon.

"I think this year has been a building phase and with any building phase you're always going to have your changes, but bringing the new girls into the structure and to the pace of the game has been important," the scrum-half maintained.

"It is massively challenging. There's going to be ups and downs but it's just about keeping as one. For me, it's about introducing the new girls to the game and giving them a boost and showing them how amazing it is to wear the green shirt."

Tom Tierney has made seven changes to the side who beat Italy last week, with Muldoon and half-back partner Nora Stapleton both restored to the starting XV.

Muldoon says Tierney's rotation policy is keeping the players - old and new - on their feet.

"It's been something fresh. It's always challenging to play with new players," she said.

"I love to challenge myself. You're always learning and that's the way it should be - you shouldn't become complacent.

"I think this year girls have been out of their comfort zone. It has been different but we need to look at the positives and we need to look forward.

"It's all about the next World Cup and the next Six Nations and giving people experience and game-time. We're all enjoying it. I know people have been in and out but it is about us as a massive squad and not just the match-day XV."

For Tierney, tomorrow's game is another chance to look at new players like Liz Burke and Claire McLaughlin, while there is a new look to the second-row with Elaine Anthony and Ciara Cooney linking up.

Ireland struggled for periods against Italy last weekend and as they face a similar challenge against a side who they will again be expected to beat comfortably, Tierney highlighted the key area that needs improving.

"It could have been a lot easier. We were very comfortable from a possession and territory point of view but we just have to hold onto the ball a small bit more," he explained.

"We were very encouraged by the initial shape that we were putting into attack which was unfortunately undone by poor handling or penalties conceded.

"That's our primary focus, we just need to look after the ball a bit more and not have unforced handling errors. If we do that, I think we've more than enough. We've got a lot of quality players."

If they rectify last week's sloppy errors, Ireland should have little trouble ensuring that they head into a historic first November series with back-to-back victories.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland Women - N Briggs (capt); L Burke, C McLaughlin, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; R O'Reilly, Z Grattage, A Egan; E Anthony, C Cooney; C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick. Reps: C Moloney, F Hayes, F Reidy, O Fitzsimons, S Spence, M Healy, A Donnelly, K Flood.

Scotland Women - C Rollie; M Gaffney, L Thompson, L Martin, R Lloyd; S Law, J Maxwell; H Lockhart, L Skeldon, L Smith; E Wassell, D McCormack; J Forsyth, K Dunbar, J Konkel. Reps: S Quick, L Robertson, T Balmer, F Sim, A Stodter, H Nelson, L Harris, E Sinclair.

Irish Independent

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