Tuesday 20 March 2018

Fiona Coghlan: No excuses left as Ireland finally pick strongest team

Eimear Considine (left) got the 14 shirt which could have gone to a number of players but, otherwise, this selection is as strong as it could possibly be. Photo: PA
Eimear Considine (left) got the 14 shirt which could have gone to a number of players but, otherwise, this selection is as strong as it could possibly be. Photo: PA

Fiona Coughlan

Tom Tierney has finally selected his strongest team for tonight's game and they need to really front up now to stop this marauding French side.

Eimear Considine got the 14 shirt which could have gone to a number of players but, otherwise, this selection is as strong as it could possibly be.

It's the exact same pack that beat France in the Six Nations and I don't think it's in any way a gamble to pick Nicole Cronin at scrum-half. She made a fine debut against Japan with some crisp deliveries and it didn't look at all like it was her first cap.

France have come into this tournament very quietly. They didn't play any Tests this summer and reportedly were training against the French (men's) U-19 team in Marcoussis.

Even if it wasn't full contact, that intensity will bring a sharpness. They look fitter than ever before, can play tight or spin it wide, and, unlike Ireland, racked up huge scores against Japan (72-14) and Australia (48-0). They look to have improved significantly since we beat them this year.

The big question is whether this is the French team that gets complacent when they appear to be favourites and away from home? Twice in recent Six Nations they've gone to Italy and lost and if the weather is bad that could play into Ireland's hands. That's what it was like in the Six Nations.

They'd no interest in playing that day though they weren't let play either.

But it's really time now for Ireland to implement a game-plan and cut out the unforced errors.

I don't think we can play expansively in this, just stick to what's been working and take it to them in the forwards. That's how we beat them in the Six Nations.

We haven't been linking our backs and forwards at all but, unfortunately, that's not something you can change in a three-day turnaround.

Ireland just have to reduce the unforced errors and respect the ball or they'll be in serious trouble. I've been really surprised at how badly we've been scrummaging.

Hopefully, with this selection and players more familiar with each other, the scrum will be as cohesive as it was in the spring.

It has to function properly now because France's scrum really put Australia and Japan under pressure.

The third game, no matter what's at stake, is always the hardest of any tournament, physically and mentally. You're in that institutionalised bubble and, even if the food and everything is great, you're starting to get restless and tired.

After such a battle with Japan it's hard to know where Ireland's confidence will be but they should, at least, take some confidence out of the way they clawed it back.

Some people have complained about some very one-sided games, especially Hong Kong's heavy losses, but that was always going to happen. I hate comparing the women's game to the men's but in this case it's valid.

Back at the 1995 (men's) World Cup, Japan were beaten 145-17 by New Zealand but 20 years later they were beating South Africa. There are always 'tier two' teams trying to break through. Sometimes they're able to put it up to 'tier one' teams, sometimes they're not. Hong Kong also had the added problem of New Zealand and Canada needing to put up as many points as possible.

Today is not just about Ireland and France. Canada versus New Zealand will be huge.

Canada have really put themselves under huge pressure to qualify by not getting a bonus point against Wales. If they don't win or get a losing bonus point they probably won't got through and USA could take that fourth semi-final spot.

Physical America are hugely physical and playing some good rugby so they will test England physically. Another game today that's hugely interesting is Spain versus Italy. Spain were one of the original Six Nations teams but were replaced by Italy in 2007 so there's a bit of history there.

Even if people haven't got tickets they could yet do because the ticket exchange is working really well. There were 300 handed back the first day and ticket re-sales have already earned €10,000 for the IRFU charitable trust. Even if people don't have tickets, it's worth going to the 'Fan Zone' to watch the matches.

It's very well organised and situated right between the two pitches and, after playing the last day, the Kiwis went into it and started playing touch rugby with some of the kids!

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport