I’ve had the good fortune of visiting a few of the Ireland Women training camps over the years. The first was four years ago in Malahide ahead of the 2010 World Cup when Ireland went on to finish in seventh place that time round, beating Scotland quite convincingly in the final day play-off.
To say things have changed, over the years, would be a bit of an understatement. Globally the standard of rugby in the women’s game has moved up a couple of notches but it would be fair to say that Ireland, under the guidance of head coach Philip Doyle, appear to have moved a notch or two beyond that again to become genuine top four contenders in the upcoming World Cup.
Of course, Doyle has been fortunate to have a strong core of players to chose from over the last four years, most importantly a text book captain in the wonderfully intelligent and level headed Fiona Coghlan, but he’s also been shrewd enough to surrounded himself with good people in his management team, people who have the drive and determination to give the girls every chance to fulfil their potential.
Ireland Women Management Team
- Head Coach – Philip Doyle
- Attack Coach – Greg McWilliams
- Forwards Coach – Peter Bracken
- Manager – Gemma Crowley
- Resource Manager – Andy Weir
- Team Doctor – Brigid Collins
- Strength and Conditioning – Marian Earls
- Physio – Uirik McCarthy Persson
- Video Analyst – Len Brown
I caught up with Philip Doyle at the second Training Camp for the 2014 Women’s World Cup to find out how preparations are progressing.
FRU: So how’s preparation going to date?
PD: Things are going excellently. We are in Camp 2, Day 2 and I have to say that the girls have really bonded well, prepared themselves incredibly well and have got off to a great start.
Marian Earls, our conditioner has done fantastic work with the players on an individual basis.
We work around the country at four or five clinics and they are all doing the exact same stuff, but it’s tailor made to their own requirements at the same time.
They’ve been working hard since the Six Nations, they have had 2 weeks holiday, but since then they have been verbally flogged (laughs) and physically flogged all down to Marian.
The girls have really turned the corner in their conditioning and and I think you can see the physical evidence for yourself.
FRU: There are a few new faces in the squad since the Six Nations. How are they fitting in?
PD: They are fitting in well. We have some girls returning from long term injury, Ashling Hutchings, Niamh Kavanagh and we have some new girls coming in, Juliet Short, Mary Healy, and they have really adapted well. The girls are great at welcoming new players into the camp which is very very important.
They are adapting themselves incredibly well actually and really putting their hands up for selection. Everyone here is honestly up for selection [for the final panel].
FRU: Ireland are in a tough group with the USA, New Zealand and Kazakhstan. What sort of challenges do you see there?
PD: As a coach I’m only focusing on one match, our first game against the USA – a hugely physical and mental challenge.
Yes we played them twice before in the last World Cup. It was one-all there but it’s a completely different challenge four years on. They’re fitter, stronger, faster. I’d like to think that we can match their physicality and with that being neutralised I’d like to think that we are a better rugby side and we’d be able to take our game to them!
The Kiwi’s are up next. We don’t know too much about them as we’ve never played them before. They are the number one women’s team in the world and we’ve always wanted to test ourselves against the best and that’s exactly what we are going to do.
Kazakhstan is always a brutal encounter. We played them in the last World Cup as well. Yes we beat them, but we were looking for a lot of points that game and we didn’t reach that target. Physically they are a huge outfit so our main challenge is to be clinical in our set piece. A massive challenge!
Of course Ireland are focusing on one game at a time, but I get the feeling that they have also put in a bit of work as to possible semi-final opponents as well. This is a squad brimming with a quiet confidence.