“Yes we can,” she says when asked if Ireland can go on and win the Rugby World Cup.
The reply came in the aftermath of Saturday’s 35-point win over Kazakhstan, which saw Philip Doyle’s side secure the nation’s first ever spot in a World Cup semi-final at this level.
Ireland must first defeat 2010 World Cup runners-up England on Wednesday (live on TG4, 5pm) however, but Cantwell answers immediately.
Cantwell’s belief appears unbreakable. It was poignant then that Ireland’s most capped player (86 caps) led the team onto the field in Marcoussis, in this her fourth World Cup, as tries from debutantes Sharon Lynch (2), Vicki McGinn, Siobhán Fleming and Tania Rosser got them over the line after a disjointed start.
Wins over USA, the reigning champions New Zealand and the Nomads in Pool B ensured their right of passage, and sees them improve on their 7th place finish at the 2010 World Cup in Surrey.
“It’s been coming for years. There’s such a huge future for this squad,” revealed the Richmond RFC star. “We work incredibly hard, technically, tactically and strategically, so there’s a lot of brains behind what we’re trying to do. Obviously though the underlying belief we have in each other is very important on the pitch and I think people can see that. We had that belief against the Black Ferns and it got us a huge result.”
Doyle had made 10 changes to the side that defeated New Zealand for the Kazakhstan clash, and each member of his 26-player squad have now gained valuable game time as they advance to the knockout stages.
Former Meath ladies football star Jackie Shiels replaced full-back Niamh Briggs, who operated as water girl on the day, but Shiels proved she’s ready and able if called upon by Doyle again, having kicked five conversions.
The changes however slowed the flow of Ireland’s attacking game, with Kazakhstan doing well in the contact area on the ground, only trailing 5-14 at half-time.
“There were nerves but we were always in control,” said Cantwell, as Ireland scored three tries in six minutes in the final quarter.
“We predicted what the game was going to be like, but our key was to allow all the squad to get up to speed again. You have to appreciate that when an outfit is playing together the whole time, how much they fine-tune their play, and it was important to give everyone a run-out.”
“It feels phenomenal,” she added, “but we came here with a job to do and the strength of a good side is a side that can adapt according to the game.”
Scorers for Ireland: Tries: S Lynch (2), T Rosser, Penalty try, S Fleming, V McGinn; Conversions: J Shiels (5)
Scorer for Kazakhstan: S Karatygina (try).
IRELAND: J Shiels; V McGinn, L Cantwell (C), G Davitt, H Casey; T Rosser, L Muldoon; F Hayes, G Bourke, KA Craddock, L Guest, O Fitzsimons, S Lynch, S Fleming, P Fitzpatrick.
Subs: Stapleton for Rosser (44), Coghlan for Burke, Egan for Hayes and Molloy for Craddock, S Spence for G Bourke (56), Baxter for Cantwell (68).
KAZAKHSTAN: A Daurembayeva, O Shadrina, A Yekovleva (C), B Kolshybayeva, L Sapronova; S Klyuchnikova, A Baratova: Y Muradova, Y Yevdokimova, O Baktiquzina; L Matiyeva, S Karatygina; S Zhamankulova, K Baktybayeva, M Balashova.
Subs: Radziuil for Bakhtiguzina (52), Kiryushina for Karatycina and Khamova for Zhamankvlova (54), Rogacheya for Moradova and Proskorina for Baratova (71).
Referee: N Inwood (England)