Ireland Women begin their World Cup warm up matches with a trip to Spain next weekend (5th July) and follow that match up with a game against Wales in Malahide two weeks later (19th July).
The extended squad are currently in their third World Cup camp and as part of our ongoing series of articles leading up to the competition I caught up with Ireland Women’s Attack Coach, Greg McWilliams, who has recently returned to the Women’s management team having previously been involved during the “Grand Slam” Six Nations in 2013.
I caught up with McWilliams as he was analysing the data he has collected on the players core skills which has been something that this management team has worked hard to improve.
FRU: It’s your second stint with Ireland Women, any changes since last time round?
GMcW: Some things stay constant, which is good, but I think that the management team and the players have looked at how they go about their business and have set themselves higher standards as to how they want to play their game. It makes our job as coaches very interesting as we are always looking at ways to challenge the players and develop and expand their skill-set.
FRU: The players are looking very sharp and have put a bit more pace on the ball in their passing, is this something you’re trying to develop?
GMcW: I think, importantly, that rugby is a simple game sometimes made difficult by coaches! So by placing a lot more emphasis on the skill base that a player has in terms of their distribution, their decision making, their alignment, how they approach the gain line etc. and by really focusing on these areas means that when they get into a game situation they are producing more clinical work.
I think over the last four years we have developed to a point where we play a good tactical game with good game management and we’ve got strong leadership within the group. I just think that if we can get sharper with our hands and develop our work and pace on the ball then we are going to open up more defences and that’s our main target.
FRU: Have you been doing much research on the teams in your pool for the World Cup (USA, Kazakhstan, New Zealand)?
GMcW: It would be remiss of me not to mention that whenever New Zealand, the USA or Kazakhstan are in the media that I would try and get my hands on the games and review it.
One thing I’ve noticed is stereotypical, in that coaches will review teams as a group. The USA, in particular, play a strong, fast brand of rugby. They have developed a lot since 2010, as have New Zealand and Kazakhstan. I’d like to think that we have developed quite a bit too.
The game has grown and women are playing with more pace in the game so the closer you get to the World Cup the tighter you hone in on the menu of plays that you are going to go with in attack and the more you watch opposition players but at the moment we’ve got to get our structures in place and all our systems in place and we are just continuously working towards that.
FRU: Is there any team you are particularly worried about?
GMcW: Honestly, I’m only worrying about ourselves at the moment. I want to get us right and I want to concentrate on that all the way up to the World Cup. I think if you look too much at the opposition about what patch you are following.
There’s a reason there is a box, and I think for us, as a management team and players, that we should concentrate on what’s inside the box and get really good at it as opposed to finding innovative new ways outside the box!
We just need to make sure that we improve on what we do and worry about the opposition team by team, game by game, when we get to the World Cup.
It’s a simple mantra from this talented coach but one that is overlooked too often as it involves a lot of repetitive work on improving players skill sets. However, the improvement in play is obvious with the players much more confident in their execution as they have the tools to adapt to any variations.
The two warm up games give Ireland a rare chance to put their learnings into practice and it’ll very much be a case of how Ireland execute being much more important than the actual results. However the games against Spain and wales are two games that Ireland will be expecting to win.
Here’s a look at their most recent head to heads.
Previous Head to Heads.
Ireland have played Spain 10 times in total with 5 wins apiece. Ireland have won the last three encounters as below:
- Ireland 39 Spain 7 – Ashbourne, Jan 2013
- Ireland 41 Spain 7 – Amsterdam, May 2008
- Ireland 25 Spain 10 – Donnybrook, Feb 2006
Ireland and Wales have met 19 times with Wales winning 12. Ireland have won the last three encounters as below:
- Ireland 18 Wales 6 – Ashbourne, Feb 2014
- Wales 10 Ireland 12 – Aberavon, Feb 2013
- Ireland 36 Wales 0 – Ashbourne, Mar 2012