Saturday 16 December 2017

Tyrrell: We're ready to 'fire on all cylinders'

Hannah Tyrrell going through her paces during training at Belfield yesterday ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Hannah Tyrrell going through her paces during training at Belfield yesterday ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Back in late 2013, when Hannah Tyrrell decided to give up her inter-county footballing career with Dublin, her focus shifted towards qualifying for the Olympics with the Ireland Sevens team.

That dream hasn't been achieved just yet but less than four years on from a decision that she admits she didn't want to make, another lifelong ambition was achieved on Thursday when she lined out for her country at a home World Cup.

The numerous sacrifices that were made along the way were made that bit more worthwhile when Tyrrell started at full-back in the win over Australia but now, having gotten a taste of it, she is hungry for more - , like her team-mates.

Opening their campaign with a tricky test against the Wallaroos was always going to pose plenty of dangers but on the flip side, the patchy performance has highlighted several areas that need to improve, whereas a facile victory that could easily have left both the squad and their supporters with a false sense of security.

Hammering

Japan's opener against France couldn't have gone much worse for them. A 72-14 hammering was compounded by the sending-off of centre Makika Tomita, who has subsequently been banned for three games.

It's the last thing that a struggling Japanese side needed but Ireland must be ruthless in their approach in tomorrow's clash as they look to remedy some of their own failings.

"We have a lot of cohesion in the team and we work well together," Tyrrell insisted.

"It didn't go so well at times (against Australia) so now we have one game one out of the way and the nerves are gone a bit. We can come out firing on all cylinders going against Japan."

How much Tom Tierney learned in the two warm-up games against Japan remains to be seen as he blooded plenty of new faces and combinations, but he did at least get a first-hand insight into what tomorrow's opponents are about.

Video material on Australia was in short supply given that they have only played five Tests since the 2014 World Cup, but Ireland will undoubtedly feel as if they are in a good place going into game two.

"They're good," Tyrrell warned. "They are very well-drilled, very low tacklers and they like to swarm the ruck. We have a couple of players and tactics that we think will work against them so we can't wait.

"Their No 8 is a big threat for them, a big ball carrier. They have some really fast wingers out the back and they love a kick over the top or a cross-field kick.

"They're all good players with technical ability and they get about the park very well.

"A lot of their backs would be Sevens players so they would be very fit and not carrying a lot of extra weight. They wouldn't be the biggest of units in the backline but they tend to use speed and footwork to get around rather than crash it up like Australia did."

Ireland will naturally talk up Japan but the truth is, they should be no match for the hosts. Tierney will name his team this afternoon and it will be fascinating to see if he tinkers with his side, particularly after his bench made such a telling impact against Australia.

The front-row have something to prove at scrum time, while Sophie Spence and Ciara Griffin are pushing hard for inclusion.

Larissa Muldoon and Nora Stapleton will almost certainly be given the nod at half-back again, and Tierney will be demanding a much-improved performance from the pair.

"They're a very tight group of players," the head coach said, echoing Tyrrell's sentiments.

"The team cohesion is second to none and they fight for each other. They'll know themselves they didn't play well at times, but they never panicked, and credit to them.

"What we're trying to do is play a game where whatever's needed we can do, especially in attack.

"There were a lot of areas there where we almost got the ball away, we almost got that next phase, almost created that overlap.

Execution

"That is an improvement, but the execution is the key area for us.

"We have to take into account the expectation and pressure the players were under, which was massive. It's something we're trying to embrace and not shy away from.

"But we have to be realistic, at times it caught us.

"Hopefully we can learn from that. But we're trying to play a game where no matter what kind of weather, what kind of opponent is thrown at us, we're trying to play on the front foot and impose ourselves on them."

Ireland's physicality at the breakdown will be crucial tomorrow as they look to generate the kind of quick ball that the likes of Sene Naoupu and Alison Miller thrive on.

Despite scoring three tries on Thursday, their attack stuttered far too often but now against the weakest team in the pool, they have an ideal chance to cut loose and build even more confidence for next Thursday's pool decider against France.

The 3,500-strong crowd will again pack out the UCD Bowl but this time around, they shouldn't be made to sweat as much.

Ireland could hardly be in a better position to put a big score on Japan, and as long as they don't lose focus on the task at hand, they should do just that.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland (possible XV)- H Tyrrell; E Considine, K Fitzhenry, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; L Peat, C Moloney, A Egan; S Spence, M-L Reilly; H O'Brien, C Molloy (capt), P Fitzpatrick.

*Team to be announced at 1.30 today

Irish Independent

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