I have to admit I’m a bit self-conscious doing writeups for these matches because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some sort of expert on the women’s game, at least not yet.
Still, I do feel like I have a role to play because one of the main goals of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 is to show the wider rugby fan base that this realm of the sport is worthy of much more media coverage and you certainly won’t hear any argument from me on that front, particularly after watching this fascinating battle between two leading nations.
The biggest compliment I can pay Philip Doyle’s Irish squad after this win is that we probably should be disappointed with the final score, in that we not only allowed the USA a losing bonus but also we didn't manage to get the four-try bonus.
Doesn’t really look like a compliment, does it? Well, it is. I could easily do a write-up merely focusing on the positives for our girls on the day, and believe me there were many. But I get a sense that there is a belief throughout this group of players that the semifinals are well within reach, and with the powerhouse Black Ferns up next in the pool, every single point is crucial.
Though the USA had a strong pack which put in a good drive at scrum time and competed well at the breakdown, the truth of the matter was that every point they put on the scoreboard came from mistakes; sometimes from the referee who seemed to have trouble interpreting the “release after tackle” laws, but other times from mistakes on our part, mostly knockons.
But despite those few setbacks, we always looked in control of the contest and our levels of organization, particularly in mauls off attacking lineouts, was stunning. Though we relied for the most part on combinations working well, there were also some individuals who impressed.
Ailis Egan thoroughly deserved her try after heavy involvement in our pick and go game, along with the rest of the pack including skipper Fiona Coughlan. Niamh Briggs will no doubt rue a couple of second half knockons but the truth is she was strong positionally throughout and it goes without saying that without her 18 points (including the crucial 2nd try just before half time) we would not be celebrating an Irish victory. From the bench, Jenny Murphy’s introduction in the centre was also key as her strong carries put us on the front foot after long periods of US possession in the third quarter.
For me, however, the most impressive outing came from Lynne Cantwell. Because she has vast experience, isn’t the tallest and is the presumptive starter for Ireland in the 13 jumper it may sound like a lazy option to liken her to BOD, but her overall contribution to the side at key moments - be it tackling, jackling, kick chasing, motivating, you name it - is so important that I’d be more inclined to say O’Driscoll was the men’s answer to Cantwell.
Overall though, like I said, it was a team effort which got us over the line and with just a four-day turnaround between matches, it’s vital that we regroup. And since we face the reigning champions next, we can’t afford to rest too many players so it will take a whopping 80 minutes from them to get anything out of the match.
But there is no earthly reason why they shouldn’t believe they can get the job done. They definitely have all the tools technically, and by the sheer emotion they showed as Ireland’s Call was being played you can tell they are all united in playing for the green jersey (even if it doesn’t seem to be manufactured by any company in particular!!!).
Once we can keep the unforced errors to a minimum and make the most out of visits to the opposition 22 (especially in the opening half an hour and hopefully getting more out of our flying wingers Baxter & Miller), we can definitely cause an upset.
I know 5pm on a Tuesday after a Bank Holiday weekend is probably as awkward a kickoff time as you could get but if you can, find a vantage point to catch this one as it happens, and while you’re doing so get on social media and use the hashtags #WRWC2014 AND #COYGIG as often as you can to let them know you’re behind them.
Finally, on the subject of more media exposure of the women’s game, like I said earlier I am definitely all for it, though I wouldn’t necessarily keep things as they are now and just urge the telly channels to cover more matches. I’m thinking this World Cup, being held as it is in France, could well be a good springboard for a Women’s Heineken/Rugby Champion’s Cup in the near future.
Of course it would probably have to be a scaled down version of the men’s one given the game’s amateur status, but I honestly think there would be a market for this level of rugby, particularly in France, England and Ireland. And if it could be played to a completion before Christmas it would be ideal for Six Nations coaches to prepare their squads at the highest level.
Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself there? Yeah probably. But hopefully you can tell that I’m psyched about this World Cup and can’t wait to watch the next instalment. You with me? JLP
Published - Monday, August 4, 2014