Ireland skipper Niamh Briggs has told her team-mates to embrace their ‘once in a generation’ chance to win a World Cup on home soil.
The UL Bohemian player will compete in her third World Cup when Ireland clash with Australia at the UCD Bowl in just over a fortnight.
But it’s her first on home soil, and after helping the country to a fourth place finish in the last tournament, the Munster full-back has her sights set on going further this time around.
“We want to go and win, we make no bones about it,” she said. “We want to win every tournament and this is no different. Hopefully come the 26th of August we’ll be in a good place.
“For us it’s important that we cherish this. It’s a once in a generation thing for us, a home World Cup, and it’s important for us to soak it in and enjoy the opportunity.
“It’s very difficult to compare with four years ago, but it was huge for us to come out of the group as winners and to the semi-final stage.
“It didn’t go to plan after that but we have a core of the squad that has experience of that and can manage our emotions in terms of playing a game every couple of days.”
There are just four days between the opener with Australia and the second Pool C game against Japan, and then another four days separate that game from the final pool game with France.
Head coach Tom Tierney claimed he had no issues with the tight fixture scheduling, and while Briggs gave a grimace alongside as he answered, the 33-year-old says there will be no excuses made by a squad who are the best-prepared team in Irish women’s rugby history.
“There are no excuses, and that’s how it should be,” she said.
“We’ve got to be accountable for our own performances, and I think that’s really important.
“We’ve a responsibility on our own shoulders now with a squad of 28 to be able to do ourselves justice, but also the girls who didn’t make it. That’s really important. We’ve pushed each other really, really hard at training, and the 28 that’s picked is probably the strongest that we’ve had in terms of strength in depth at a World Cup, but it’s also a huge contribution from the girls that haven’t made it.
“I’d echo the same sentiments as Tom, I don’t think there should be any excuses for us. I think we need to go out and take ownership and responsibility and be accountable for our performances.”
Speaking at the announcement of the Ireland squad to tackle next month’s tournament at UCD, Briggs walked past both College venues that will be filled with fans of all nations in a fortnight’s time.
Most, naturally, will be there to cheer on the home team and that pressure is something Briggs and company have planned for.
“I want us to really cherish and embrace the fact that we’re at home,” she said.
“We’ve prepared really well in terms of how we trained and in the build up to this, so yeah I definitely do think that’s something that we’ll manage in terms of it’s something that we want to be able to enjoy. We don’t want to run away from it and I do think that’s the most important thing for us.”
Briggs, who missed this season’s Six Nations through injury, hopes to get a run out in next week’s pre-tournament game against Spain in their camp at Fota Island in Cork.
That will be the final game before the opener against Australia, but there’s no stress with many of the players having been there and done that in terms of major tournament involvement.
“We’ve spoken about it already in terms of the recovery period between each game being hugely important, because when you get to a stage like a World Cup then all the hard work has been done and everyone has prepared as best as they can, and it’s just how you manage yourself in between it,” she said.
Ireland beat New Zealand for the first time ever in the pool stages of the last World Cup, and while Briggs did not blame that emotional high for the semi-final defeat to England, there are lessons to be learned.
“Beating New Zealand was huge for us but we had a game in between that so the England result wasn’t based on our emotions,” he said. “But I think it can be draining at times if you’re too high or too low, and it can take away from what you’re trying to do away from the pitch. I definitely think that that’s important and that you learn from it.”
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