Cliodhna Moloney: Encouraging signs but old failings still niggle with new look Ireland 

It’s hard to keep momentum when you’re constantly conceding soft penalties for high tackles or not rolling away. 
Cliodhna Moloney: Encouraging signs but old failings still niggle with new look Ireland 

Ireland's Amee-Leigh Crowe runs in to score a try despite the efforts of Lisa Neumann of Wales

Losing 27-19 at home to Wales at the start of a new Six Nations campaign is not a result the girls would have been anticipating. They will be disappointed of course but I don’t think they will feel down and out at all because there were positive aspects to our attack, which has been lacking flair and direction for a while.

You can see signs that they do have a way that they want to play and that development is encouraging.

The target would have been to win our three home games against Wales, Italy and Scotland and then build from there.

But then Wales threw a spanner in the works with their devastating finish on Saturday.

The difference in the Wales players’ conditioning and fitness just a few months after going full-time was significant. 

They have had more time together and more time to work on their attack, fitness and set piece – all of which were better than in previous games against Ireland. The subs they could bring on were able to keep with the pace of the game and Donna Rose made some impact scoring two tries.

By comparison, Ireland didn’t make those key changes and weren’t able to fight fire with fire.

Wales changed their entire front row - Ireland left two on. Neve (Jones) and Linda (Djougang), who did so well when you think she has changed position from tighthead to loosehead, played the full 80 minutes.

Ireland didn’t have much possession so they had lots of maul defences and scrum defences to negotiate and on a sunny day it does take it out of the bodies, particularly for front row forwards.

There needs to be more clarity on roles in mauls and lineouts but that will come with time. They need to be more savvy in their decision-making; putting Nichola Fryday up against a Welsh lineout so close to the Irish line is too risky against a strong mauling side.

With only three or four camps prior to this campaign, team cohesion will only increase with time. It was just a sticky one, given it is one of Wales’ biggest strengths.

But I liked Stacey Flood at 12 rather than 10 and Aiobheann Reilly had a great game on her debut and plays at a tempo they want to play at with quick taps and good ruck awareness. With more continuity you’ll see those two get the outside backs away for more tries.

IT is the first time since making my debut in 2015 that I haven’t been with Ireland for a Six Nations, though I was injured in 2017 and 2019.

I was playing a game for Wasps in Darlington on Saturday at the same time Ireland were playing, with a five-hour coach journey there and back, so I didn’t get to watch the game until later that night.

Watching it back wasn’t the same as watching it live because my day wasn’t consumed by the result.

People have asked me if I wasn’t selected for the squad because of the ‘slurry spreading’ comment I made in November (in the wake of an interview given by then Ireland women’s Director of Rugby Anthony Eddy).

I have only had a brief conversation with the new coach Greg McWilliams who explained that my non-selection is based on my form with Wasps. So I have to trust it is a rugby decision.

Up front to see Sam (Monaghan) breaking lines with skill and the hard yards gained by Linda’s strength is something we haven’t been doing with forward carries, all facilitated by the donkey work of players like Neve Jones and Edel McMahon in particular.

It is similar to how the French play the game so we will be going toe-to-toe next week with a side that loves hard carries by forwards and off-loading lines from loose forwards.

Ireland can travel with hope but it is always a tough ask. You never really know what France have up their sleeve but you can be guaranteed they will have a well-organised lineout and some real attacking flair.

A word of caution though. Our discipline needs to be looked at, but that is nothing new.

In the World Cup Qualifying tournament last September we picked up four yellows in three matches, had a red in the November Internationals and another yellow against Wales on Saturday.

It is not happening through foul play but the international game is so much quicker than the AIL. The decision-making is so much quicker in defence, and there are far more eyes on you officials-wise compared to the AIL. We are used to it in the English Premiership and the Welsh girls would be used to that as well compared to girls playing in the AIL.

It’s hard to keep momentum when you’re constantly conceding soft penalties for high tackles or not rolling away. 

That is a constant work-on for Ireland.

CLIODHNA MOLONEY was capped 31 times by Ireland and was Player of the Year in 2020.

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