As they prepare for the pool stages of next month’s Women’s Rugby World Cup at the UCD Bowl, Ireland winger Alison Miller believes they can take inspiration from their historic 2014 win over New Zealand.
With just 12 teams competing in the tournament, winning all three group games is the best way for Ireland to secure a place in the semi-finals, and Miller revealed that this was the squad’s attitude heading into that groundbreaking encounter with the Black Ferns three years ago.
“The way the Women’s Rugby World Cup is designed, the pools are so competitive. You have to win your games. I think back then we knew we had to beat New Zealand. It wasn’t a matter that we couldn’t beat them. If we wanted to progress, we just had to beat New Zealand. That game was hugely historic,” Miller remarked yesterday.
“It was one of those really enjoyable games. It was a really instinctive game. You didn’t have too much time to think, because they were such a hugely skilled team. Sometimes those games are the most enjoyable, when you’re living in the moment all the time.”
With pool encounters against Australia, Japan, and France in Dublin on the horizon, there will be high expectations of the Ireland squad for this year’s competition.
However, because their opponents in 2014 were four-time world champions, Miller felt the pressure was off them to a certain extent.
“When the whistle blew [at full-time], it was just an ecstatic feeling. I remember it being a game where I wasn’t hugely nervous before. It was a game I remember thinking ‘do you know what, we’ll go after this, and we’ll just go for it’.
“It was a really exciting feeling before, rather than a sense of pressure. There wasn’t pressure on us. There was pressure on them, as they were four times World Cup champions.”
Miller was at the GPO in Dublin yesterday for the unveiling of a special postage stamp — which is an action shot of team captain Niamh Briggs — in honour of Ireland’s hosting of the World Cup.
The staging of this tournament is another step in the right direction for the development of women’s rugby in Ireland, and Miller also believes their performances in 2014 have had a knock-on effect for the sport.
“I think it [defeating New Zealand] created a lot of history within the country. Obviously that knock-on effect has hit around, and people will always remember that game.
"They will always ask you about it, and a lot of people saw it. It was only when I got home to Ireland that I realised how many people watched that game, and how many people watched the World Cup.
“As a player, you don’t look at those outside things when you’re there. How many people were excited, were in pubs and all over Ireland watching that game. And after that game really got behind us,” Miller added.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved