Ireland discover some answers against France but the big question remains

Irish coach Adam Griggs knows the chasm is there, even between sides who are totally amateur
Ireland discover some answers against France but the big question remains

Ireland’s Sene Naoupu is brought down by France’s Cyrielle Banet and Jade Ulutule during the Guinness Women’s Six Nations match at Energia Park, Donnybrook. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Women's Six Nations: Ireland 15 France 56

These sort of games were commonplace a quarter of a century ago as teams at different stages of the amateur-professional spectrum engaged in mismatched battles, and France dished out another dose of reality to Adam Griggs’ Ireland side at Energia Park on Saturday.

Amateur athletes, regardless of all the endeavour, commitment and willingness, and this Irish side has plenty of those qualities, will always struggle when they go into battle against professional opponents, even part-time ones like this French squad.

It has little to do with the money paid, it is all around physical and mental preparation and, in particular, recovery. The athlete who can engage in a big session and then recover and relax properly is going to have an advantage over someone who partakes in the same activity but then has to mix it with responsibilities in the classroom, hospital ward, office or wherever.

Irish coach Griggs knows the chasm is there, even between sides who are totally amateur. Hence, Ireland can go from beating Wales 45-0 away to losing by 41 points at home the next week.

Finding the willingness to fund Irish professional women’s rugby might be as difficult as finding the money itself, but at least it will be a more balanced affair next weekend when Ireland vie with an improving Italian side, who won in Glasgow on Saturday, for third spot in the Six Nations.

“We haven’t had regular rugby, and even some of our feedback from camps, at the moment players can’t even go back into their clubs and try and fix some of those things at that level either,” said Griggs. “It has been a challenging year but hopefully things are on the up now. I know we will be better for this come next week. We have got to make sure we finish on a real positive note.

"I do believe that we are getting better in terms of what the squad is producing, and I know the scoreline doesn’t reflect that, but I do think we are growing, and certainly in the right way. We have got to focus on making sure that we get better, in terms of playing these good teams. We have some of the answers for what went wrong today.

“It’s not like we are scrambling for how we are going to go about next week. We know we have answers to some of the mistakes that we made this week. I suppose we have got to keep the faith on that side of things.” 

The game was over as a contest by the interval with France running in five tries to lead 38-8 at half-time.

Ireland did start brightly and were rewarded with a penalty from Hannah Tyrrell but France’s power in the scrum and lineout had a big impact and they took control.

Caroline Boujard, who got a hat-trick in the 53-0 win over Wales, crossed for their opening try after 14 minutes after switching to the left-wing and they never looked back after that.

In contrast, Ireland struggled to get Beibhinn Parsons, who crossed for two tries in their 45-0 victory over Wales, into the game as they just could not get the ball wide.

France ran in five tries in the opening half with Irish hooker Cliodhna Moloney, after a neat ball to the front of the lineout, got over for a try to reduce the margin to 21-8 after 27 minutes with lock Aoife McDermott in the bin.

Irish sevens player Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe came on to make her 15s Irish debut, but she was binned for a high tackle on Boujard after a lengthy consultation with the TMO.

There was some consolation five minutes from time for Ireland when a good maul after a penalty to the right corner yielded a try for replacement hooker Emma Hooban, which was superbly converted by the impressive Stacey Flood.

“If you look at the scoreboard, yeah we weren’t up to it,” added Griggs. “But at the same time, we have got to focus on what we can do about being on top of our own game. We said at half time don’t go chasing the scoreboard at this point, let’s stick to what we know and what we did well last week that got us through.

“We just have to keep concentrating on that. We obviously have a big year coming up with our World Cup qualifiers and that’s a real target for us to make sure that we can go out and perform in those. I think if we focus on our collective group and what we do well we’ll get better and better from it.” 

IRELAND: E Considine; L Delany, E Higgins, S Naoupu, B Parsons; H Tyrrell, K Dane; L Peat, C Moloney, L Djougang; A McDermott, N Fryday; D Wall, C Molloy, C Griffin (C).

Replacements: B Hogan for McDermott (49), A-L Murphy Crowe for Delany (49), E Lane for Dane (54), S Flood for Tyrrell (54), H O’Connor for Molloy (54), E Hooban for Moloney (59), K O’Dwyer for Peat (59), L Feely for Djougang (59).

FRANCE: E Boulard; C Boujard, C Neisen, J Ulutule, C Banet; C Drouin, L Sansus; A Deshaye, A Sochat, R Bernadou; M Fall, S N’Diaye; M Mayans, G Hermet (c), E Gros.

Replacements: C Joyeux for Bernadou (49), R Menager for Gros (49), C Diallo for Hermet (55); P Bourdon for Sansus (56), M Traoré for Deshaye (63), G Vernier for Neisen (63), L Touyé for Sochat (67), M Peyronnet for Boujard (67).

Referee: S Cox (RFU).

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