Saturday 21 April 2018

Reilly aiming to draw on 'extra special' past Twickenham experience

Cliodhna Moloney is looking forward to playing at Twickenham. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cliodhna Moloney is looking forward to playing at Twickenham. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

There hasn't been much to separate Ireland and England in their recent meetings, 15 points in the last three games to be precise, but today's Twickenham visitors will have to draw on last year's heroic performance if they are to get their Six Nations title defence back on track.

Defeat in France two weeks ago has left Tom Tierney's side playing catch up, and arriving to the home of the world champions for what is a must-win game, the tasks don't come much tougher.

Plenty of this evening's starting team played in Twickenham when England ran out 17-10 winners in 2014 but for others, this is a whole new experience compared to anything they have faced before.

England are flying high with two wins from two and the hosts will also take confidence from the fact that they beat Ireland 8-3 in a historic first ever women's autumn international last November.

For experienced second-row Marie Louise Reilly, returning to Twickenham is another chance to showcase Ireland's talent on a bigger stage and she is hoping to draw on her past experiences of playing there.

"It should be brilliant. It's always the classic England versus Ireland game and to have it in Twickenham is going to be extra special," she enthused.

"It'll be my second time playing there. It's fantastic. It's a real iconic world stadium and there's no reason why we can't go there and perform.

"The last time we were there, we were stood in the tunnel as the men's game finished. England happened to win on the day.

"When we ran out, there were 80,000 people screaming and shouting. You couldn't hear the person next you. I remember the warm-up that day seemed to be through charades because you couldn't hear what the S&C coach was saying to us.

"From that perspective, it's something to overcome but then as soon as the whistle blows, you're just completely focused on the game, know your job and you're just looking to work hard for the rest of the team."

Captain Niamh Briggs and half-back pair Larissa Muldoon and Nora Stapleton are the only survivors in the backline from two years ago, which means that there is extra pressure on the trio to guide the less experienced players through the game.

Up front, Allis Egan, Sophie Spence, Reilly and Claire Molloy will bring considerable experience to the pack, while Paula Fitzpatrick shifts to No 8 to accommodate Claire Griffin, who comes in at blindside flanker.

Despite coming into the game on the back of a defeat to France, Reilly said that the players have taken responsibility for the defeat and have moved on.

"We had a camp last weekend and we had a good video analysis session there. There was a lot of individual responsibility, everyone had to put their hands up," Reilly said.

"There were a lot of unforced errors, which was unlike the Irish team. We took it on board and went out and trained very well. Hopefully we'll move on from that and we're looking for a good result against England.

"They're (England) a very physical team, their pack like to work the full width of the pitch. They're very strong ball carriers then as well. They've managed to accrue quite a scoreline as well.

"They're going to be dangerous throughout which is what you'd expect at international level but we had a good training camp last weekend and we're fully focused on what we need to do to bring them down."

Hooker Cliodhna Moloney is one of several starting players who have never played at Twickenham before and she is relishing the chance to do so.

"I'd be very hopeful that a lot of the Irish supporters and English supporters would wait on after the men's game for ours," she said.

"It's free in so there's no excuse really. We'll be hoping to give them a good game to wait around for, after hopefully the men do the business as well.

"It'll be incredibly physical as it always is against England. The set-piece will be difficult, they've got quite a big scrum.

"Their forwards would be very powerful but so are ours. If we can win that area of the battle, I think we'll be in a good position."

Form would point to a home win but a lot of the newer faces in this Irish side will have learned from their trip to France.

It won't be easy but if Ireland's set-piece can run smoothly and they can get the ball to Sene Naoupu, a player with serious X-factor, they will be in with a chance.

But this is a much more experienced English side and that may well be what tips another titanic tussle in the home side's favour.

Verdict: England

England Women - K Mason; L Thompson, L Cattell, C Large, L Clapp; A Reed, L T Mason; R Clark, E Croker, V Cornborough; A Scott, E Braund; H Millar-Mills, I Noel-Smith, S Hunter (capt). Reps: A Cokayne, H Kerr, B Dawson, T Taylor, P Leitch, B Blackburn, R Laybourn, L Riley.

Ireland Women - N Briggs (capt); E O'Byrne-White, A Donnelly, S Naoupu, M Coyne; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; R O'Reilly, C Moloney, A Egan; S Spence, M-L Reilly; C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick. Reps: Z Grattage, F Hayes, F Reidy, C Cooney, H O'Brien, M Healy, N Caughey, J Shiels.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport