Ireland women’s coach Adam Griggs says he has set 72-times capped back row Claire Molloy some targets to improve on away from the squad after axing her for this weekend’s Six Nations play-off against Italy.
Molloy, 32, who was Ireland’s player of the match last October when they defeated Italy 21-7 at Donnybrook, has won two Six Nations Championships with Ireland in her 12-year international career, but is one of only three changes to a side that fell to a 56-15 defeat to France last weekend.
Molloy, a doctor based in the UK where she plays for Wasps, has been dropped along with Hannah Tyrrell and winger Lauren Delany following the eight-try loss last weekend, but Griggs says Molloy has given him and his management team her full backing and that she understands the decision.
“I had a good conversation with Claire. I think she is one of our most experienced players, very level headed. I have set her a couple of targets just away from the group, that we feel she can keep improving on,” said Griggs.
“I think that’s the beauty of this game, that you can have 70-odd caps and still be learning things.
“She was the first to admit that a couple of parts of her performance weren’t up to scratch. And she knows that this is a competitive squad.
“It is nice to get a message from her today fully backing us and making sure that we do well this weekend.”
The decision to cut Molloy and Delany from the matchday squad altogether is a ruthless move from Griggs, and he has introduced Brittany Hogan at openside, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe on the wing for her first start, while Stacey Flood is handed control of the rudder at out-half in favour of Tyrrell.
Griggs himself came in for plenty of attention earlier this week following his failure to be able to name who was in charge of the women’s game at the IRFU, and he rowed back on those comments at yesterday’s press briefing.
“On reflection I probably wasn’t as clear as I could have been,” said Griggs.
“I think it is important to acknowledge the work that Collie McEntee (IRFU Rugby Development Director), Amanda Greensmith (Women's Development Manager) and the domestic game in running our pathway and also our inter-provincial series. Hopefully that can clear up some of the comments that were made.
He continued: “I think I probably got put on the spot a little bit and I didn’t want to come across that we were putting it [the 56-15 loss to France] on to any one person.
“The questions are understandable, and as I stated, I think what we have in place at the moment is a really good model; it’s a good structure.”
After the brutal loss to France, Ireland now face Italy in a third placed play-off, a game that was initially due to take place in Italy, but was switched to Donnybrook to ease the quarantine pressures on the Ireland players.
After that bruising loss, the coach says it wasn’t as tough a week as you might think.
“It hasn’t been too bad to be honest. Every sports person has been through highs and lows and every team, sometimes had to take their medicine and have been on the wrong side of a heavy scoreboard. You just have to remind the players of that.
“Teams will have a good day, which we feel France did, and teams will have a bad day, which we did. Unfortunately the two collided which probably made that scoreline worse than what we felt it could have been.
“You just have to make sure we move on now. The beauty of this competition is that we get to play this week and we really want to make sure that last week is last week, and this week is a completely new focus.”