Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Ireland’s first meeting with Black Ferns

In this week’s Women’s Rugby slot, Sarah Lennon returns to look at Ireland’s World Cup chances after the pool draw

Women's Rugby column

When the Irish women completed their Grand Slam winning season last year, they also secured a place in the 2014 World Cup to be held in France.

This is no mean feat as the likes of Scotland and Italy missed out completely as only 12 teams compete in the Women’s World Cup. Instead of the established 6 Nations teams of Scotland and Italy, Spain who had been controversially removed from the women’s 6 Nations in 2007 qualified placing highest in the qualifying tournament.

The draw for the group stages took place in Paris on Thursday and Ireland were drawn in Pool 2.

In order to have a chance at winning the tournament, Ireland must top their group or be the best runner up from the three pools. Otherwise they will play for ranking 5-8 or 9-12. Ireland’s best return to date is 7th place and they would be very confident on an improvement on that position.

Ireland had a very similar group in 2010 with both the USA and Kazakhstan in their pool alongside England. Ireland secured two comfortable wins against The USA and Kazakhstan on those occasions but a comprehensive defeat to England saw them lose out to Australia on points difference for the semi final places. In the following round the ‘Girls in Green’ lost to the USA who gained a modicum of revenge.

On the form of the 2010 tournament, 2 comfortable wins will not be enough, 2 comprehensive wins will be required. This tournament sees New Zealand as the top seeds in Ireland’s pool and they are seasoned champions. The tournament has never been held in the Southern hemisphere but that doesn’t seem to be a disadvantage to New Zealand who have won the last 4 tournaments in a row.

Much will depend on the order of the matches. If a win against New Zealand is being targeted as a realistic prospect then is it best to play them first up and try to catch them cold or play them when they’ve notched up two wins and have secured a playoff spot already? All things considered, I think it would suit Ireland to have the USA up first, followed by Kazakhstan and then hopefully set up a pool decider with New Zealand.

Can Ireland beat the Black Ferns? Well the teams have never met before, so no history to guide us. The New Zealand team lost a series to England 3-0 in the autumn of 2012 and Ireland beat England in last year’s 6 Nations so the formbook would suggest that Ireland could have a cut at New Zealand. Logic will tell us though that New Zealand will target this competition without any annual tournament of their own.

It’s hard to see beyond New Zealand and England for the final, certainly England should qualify from a very comfortable group. Ireland will be quietly confident however and a solid 6 Nations will cement that confidence. This Irish team have never been more professional and organised, there is serious competition for places and a good blend of experience and emerging talent.

Roll on the summer of 2014.

Sarah Lennon (@sarahlennon08) is passionate about all things rugby. A Leinster Season Ticket holder since the Donnybrook days, a supporter of the Irish teams home and abroad and can regularly be seen cheering on Junior Rugby at Stillorgan RFC (a labour of love). As well as spectating, she dabbles in playing a bit and is a member of Old Belvedere RFC and fully paid up member of the front row union.

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