‘It is tough – they care’ – Emotional Greg McWilliams ‘proud’ of Ireland despite Six Nations defeat to Wales

Ireland's Sam Monaghan in action during the TikTok Women's Six Nations defeat to Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Mark Lewis/Sportsfile

Sinéad Kissane

An emotional Greg McWilliams admits he didn’t expect Wales to over-power Ireland to the extent they did in their opening game of the Women’s Six Nations at Cardiff Arms Park today.

A dominant Wales ran in five tries to comfortably beat Ireland 31-5. Ireland captain Nichola Fryday scored a second half try but Wales controlled this test with their power game. It was something the Ireland head coach didn’t see coming.

“I didn’t. And, in fairness, I thought they were really well coached. There’s a lot of big bodies that were physical and that dominated the contact and in this game if you’re not competing around the contact point its very hard to win,” McWilliams said.

“Of course, you’re disappointed. Anyone who’s a coach or head coach understands how it feels like now. You feel like you’ve let people down. It’s hard.”

McWilliams struggled to hold back the tears during the post-match press conference and he said the result was one that was really hard for the players to take.

“Of course it is, yeah. It is tough – they care,” he said.

"They look at how the men’s team, the 20s team played, they know what the rugby public is like and they want to do some special things.

"It didn’t go our way and that’s the beauty of sport sometimes and we’re on the receiving end of it."

Wales had the bonus point wrapped up by half-time when they led 26-0.

“I thought the first half, very early, they showed their physicality and their ability to control the game. I was proud, you have to be at certain stages to make sure it was at least 5-5 in the second half. It was tough at half-time to pick the players up,” he said.

“We saw a little bit of shock, as you can imagine. But now we just need to learn from it. And you know it's an easy thing to say, it's easy to show resilience and say you show resilience when things go well.

"It’s when things don’t go your way that’s the true test of our resilience. We just have to shake it off, learn and get ready for next week.”

It’s the second year that Wales have players on professional contracts. McWilliams also believes that Wales playing at last year’s Rugby World Cup gave them a head-start on Ireland who failed to qualify for that tournament.

“World Cups are massive because you’ve got a three month period where you’re preparing all the time, you’re training full-time, you’re playing against good opposition in a cauldron,” he said.

"They would have learned so much from that and developed so much from that and they managed to get that head-start to increase that acceleration.

“I take encouragement from a lot of things. You might find it hard to believe there are things in that game that I’m really happy about but unfortunately not enough.

"I think they have 23 of their squad playing in the Premier 15s. They’ve got cohesion, 11 of them come from Gloucester that are towards the top of the Premiership playing week-in and week-out in a really competitive league.

"And we’ve just got to realise where we are now and own it and find a way to make sure we build and get better.

“We’ve got to be patient but at the same time there’s no excuses. I’m not making any excuses, excuses are for losers. You just care. You deeply care.”

McWilliams said he was encouraged with Ireland’s second half performance.

“I was really happy with people who came on and just fought. When you see people fighting for things that is so encouraging. I was proud of the likes of Derbhile Nic a Bhaird who came out and fought. And she showed amazing leadership. She’s more upset down there than anybody,” he said.

Ireland play France in their second round game at Musgrave Park next Saturday.