Ireland seeking solutions up front as they bid to get campaign up and running against France

Head Coach Greg McWilliams during the Ireland Women's Rugby captain's run at Musgrave Park in Cork. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Sinéad Kissane

If the manner of the defeat in Cardiff last weekend was a reality check, then the most interesting aspect of Ireland’s performance against France at Musgrave Park today in the Women’s Six Nations will be how they respond.

Head coach Greg McWilliams referenced a few times since the 31-5 defeat that the players were in shock, particularly after the first half.

That game will stand to the players. The right call has been made in the front-row with Christy Haney coming in to start at tighthead and Linda Djougang moving across to loosehead. Deirbhile Nic a Bháird brought that energy that was lacking in the first half and merits her starting place.

Today could mark the start of a player who takes long-term residency of the out-half jersey which has been on rotation too often since the start of the decade. Nineteen-year-old Dannah O’Brien has the potential to lock this jersey down in what will not only be her first Six Nations start but her first international game in Ireland.​


A rookie like O’Brien should have experienced players around her to take the pressure off but all the backs are also getting used to the international game.

The starting Irish backline has 32 caps, the French backline has 197 and they’ve also got a debutant at full-back, Morgane Bourgeois, and a new-ish out-half, Carla Arbez.

Just like last week, what happens up front will be deciding factor. All week, forwards and coaches have been speaking about the fixes they need to make in the scrum and maul which should deliver an improved performance.

They’ll need to because France also boast a power game.

Last year, France had the bonus point wrapped up by half-time in Toulouse to lead 26-0 (reminiscent of Wales last weekend) before beating Ireland 40-5. Post-World Cup, France have had a change of coaches, player retirements, injuries and a lot of travel in the opening two weekends, with Parma last weekend and Cork today.

But Ireland may not be the team ready to made the most of any chinks.

It will be a huge step up for a young backline. The more experienced pack will need to also out-smart this French pack and ferocious back-row.

The result might be beyond Ireland but not a response

Ireland – M Deely; A Doyle, A Dalton, V Irwin, N Behan; D O’Brien, M Scuffil-McCabe; L Djougang, N Jones, C Haney; N Fryday (capt), S Monaghan; D Wall, G Moore, D Nic a Bháird. Reps: C Nielson, S McGrath, K Buggy, H O’Connor, B Hogan, N Cronin, A McGann, L Delany.

France – M Bourgeois; C Banet, M Menager, G Vernier, C Boujard; C Arbez, P Bourdon; A Deshaye, A Sochat, C Joyeux; M Feleu, A Forlani, A Berthoumieu, E Gros, C Escudero. Reps: E Riffoneau, C Lindelauf, A Khalfaoui, M Picut, G Hermet, A Chambon, J Tremouliere, M Dupouy.

REF – Hollie Davidson (SRU)

Ireland v France,

Live, Virgin Media One, 3.15