‘We just have to stick with the players, they’re unbelievable, love them’ – Greg McWilliams

Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird of Ireland is tackled by Annaelle Deshayes of France

Sinead Kissane

Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams said players need to “trust in the plan” following the record 53-3 defeat to France in the Women’s Six Nations game at Musgrave Park today. France, who played with 14 players for 60 minutes after a red card to prop Annaelle Deshaye, ran in nine tries overall in a ruthless and dominant display.

Out-half Dannah O’Brien scored the only points for Ireland with a penalty in her first Six Nations start. Ireland also finished with 14 players after Meabh Deely was yellow carded in the 70th minute.

Despite showing some improvements from their defeat to Wales in Cardiff last week, it was another harsh lesson for Ireland against one of the top teams in the world and it ended with a record margin of defeat for Ireland against France.

“Another tough day, not the scoreline we wanted but if you look at the resilience that the players showed. We’re in around them every day, we’re seeing how much it means to them to represent the country, and how hard they’re working,” said McWilliams.

“I thought they showed more resilience. It’s a tough game if you’re not winning the corridor of power, if you’re soaking tackles, it makes it very hard. We know there are areas to improve on and we just hope we continue to improve because in years to come we’ll look back on these as really important moments. We just have to stick with the players, they’re unbelievable, love them.

“None of these girls want to lose, these girls want to win more than you can believe. And they just need to trust in the plan and keep working for each other.”

McWilliams believes it was an improved performance than last week against Wales.

“I thought it was better. In some areas, the set piece has improved. It’s tough when you play a little bit slower and they’re winning the corridor of power because the ball slows down and it’s very hard to generate any momentum. If you look at certain individuals that played there today, they stood up. I think we want to see fight in this group at the moment and I understand that’s not what the Irish public want.

“They want us to be winning games but I remember back, with Niamh Briggs over there, in 2010 and ’11 losing matches by bigger scorelines but it wasn’t shown on TV and we got a couple of column inches. So, we were able to go through that journey without the public and without being on TV. And now the public are seeing this journey and we just hope that they stay supportive. The most important thing is the players.”

It was Tullow teenager Dannah O’Brien’s first international in Ireland, her first Six Nations start in her fourth game for Ireland at out-half. McWilliams was impressed with her display.

“Unbelievable! Isn’t it great. We’ve found somebody who belongs on this stage. She belongs out here. We’re seeing that with the likes of Aoife Dalton, Sadhbh McGrath, and look at Deirbhile (Nic A Bhaird)’s influence today, look at her as an energiser. There’s so many positive things.

“Vicky (Irwin) is only 22, Natasja (Behan) is only 23. These players are getting more experienced. They’re learning very, very quickly and they’re learning in front of the public eye. And it’s tough on them but they’re showing so much resilience.”