Despite celebrating her 36th birthday with a long-awaited Six Nations win, Sene Naoupu admitted there is considerable scope for improvement within the Ireland women’s team.
Following a four-game losing streak — dating back to the second round of last year’s Championship — Adam Griggs’ charges squeezed past the challenge of Scotland at Donnybrook on Sunday, 18-14.
Naoupu’s try on 15 minutes had helped the hosts to develop a 13-0 cushion, before a resilient Scotland fired back with five-pointers either side of Beibhinn Parson’s decisive intercept score in the final quarter.
“Plenty more to work on. There’s more in us, more to learn. More to give and it’ll be a case of reviewing footage and seeing where we can be better.
“Certainly after the first 20 minutes, we had a good hard and fast start but it’s just a matter of keeping our discipline in certain moments,” said Naoupu.
“As a team, we’ve certainly been working hard on executing a new defensive system that we’re all pretty excited about, but there’s certainly some areas that we need to work on for the next few days.
“There were some patches where we were disappointed with the way we executed some things, and some of our decision making in parts, especially in that second half. There’s some easy fixes as well.”
A late comer to the international stage, Naoupu made her Ireland debut during their successful 2015 Six Nations campaign.
Following a drastic change in personnel over the last few years, the New Zealand-born centre is now one of the most experienced figures within the current set-up.
It has been a tough period of transition for the side since the 2017 World Cup, but the emergence of teenagers like Parsons and Tipperary’s Dorothy Wall ensures Naoupu is optimistic for the future of women’s rugby in Ireland.
“It’s important that new talent coming through are stepping up. It’s fantastic that the pathways are doing a job. We’ve an effective leadership group in place so that can help drive standards.
“It’s positive in that you are creating an environment where everyone on the team can thrive and do what they do best,” Naoupu added.
Meanwhile, Ireland head coach Griggs expects captain Ciara Griffin to have regained fitness ahead of Wales’ visit to Donnybrook on Sunday (kick-off 1pm).
The Kerry woman was replaced at half-time last weekend — heralding Wall’s international bow in the process.
“We think she [Griffin] should be fine. She actually had a tummy bug, so she hasn’t been well. I think she just gave her all for 40 minutes and then just had nothing left.
"Dorothy came on and made an immediate impact,” Griggs said.