Cliodhna Moloney: Ireland selection should be based on training

I was surprised when Ireland named an unchanged team because they didn’t want any individual player to be blamed for the defeat against Wales, I didn’t think a coach would apply that logic to the selection process
Cliodhna Moloney: Ireland selection should be based on training

2 April 2022; Eve Higgins of Ireland during the TikTok Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse, France. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Sportsfile

All things considered, losing in the south of France was never going to make or break Ireland’s season.

And while it’s a defeat that will be hard for the girls, and all the people who want to get behind them, it wasn’t unexpected given how difficult it is to go there and win.

Only England know what that feels like and it will inevitably be the deciding game of this year’s Championship on 30th April when they go to Toulouse to take on France with the title on the line. And it is already sold out.

England and France are so far ahead, and others are moving forward too, so results are going to be hard to come by for Ireland this year.

What we did see on Saturday though was improvement in our lineout maul defence in particular.

Ireland knew France would watch the Wales game and target that weakness in our game, so it was encouraging to see the girls were more organised in this area.

France didn’t make massive metres from the driving maul, so we did learn from one of our failings against Wales - which is a positive for sure.

The set piece is an ongoing issue. It has been well noted how low the cap number is in the Ireland squad, and the disparity between the AIL and international level.

It is some jump to make, especially with the inexperience in the squad, and when you couple that with the girls only having three camps before the tournament began, well it’s a hard ask to expect them to bridge that gap quickly. When you are inexperienced, the Six Nations is a tough place to learn.

Scrummaging is not something you can fix from one week to another either. If it was that easy, everyone would do it.

It is hard to see from a spectator point of view and you are judging it from the camera angles available, but the main thing for me is Ireland’s height in the scrum.

When you are the smaller pack, which Ireland are, you can’t be operating at a height suitable to a heavier pack.

I was shocked to see Ireland had 50% possession, but considering they also had 24 turnovers, it is obvious that the biggest issue the team has is holding onto the ball.

France are a lot fitter so they were able to hold on in defence and counter whatever Ireland wanted to do in attack.

Penalties killed Ireland. Twelve conceded and if you’re giving away phase-play penalties when the opposition already have a scrum penalty advantage, it is a difficult position to be in.

Eve Higgins played really well. She was our best performer in attack and defence, the highest metres carried and unlucky not to have scored two tries.

I was glad to see the Ireland coaching staff used the bench a bit earlier this week.

I was surprised when Greg said he had named an unchanged team because he didn’t want any individual player to be blamed for the defeat against Wales.

I didn’t think a coach would apply that logic to the selection process. You’d think it would be based on training, although it is difficult with such a short turnaround between games.

A lot was made of Beibhinn Parsons not starting. She got very little ball when she came on against Wales and the momentum was not with Ireland then.

I suspect she must have been feeling the pressure all week because she was trying to force things against the French. Her first three involvements were a high tackle penalty, an accidental offside and a knock-on.

The girls will have a little bit more time together before the Italy game.

They’ve only had three weeks in total before this, and I don’t know if they have a referee in camp to give them feedback but it might help them get the penalty count down.

The biggest work-ons ahead of Italy will be holding onto the ball and lowering the penalty count.

They will have a three-day camp next weekend before reassembling down in Cork the following week so it is a good chance to get some scrummaging work done that they perhaps didn’t have a chance to do this week.

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