The 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup kicks off tomorrow and Ireland get their campaign underway against the USA in Marcoussis, just outside Paris. Kick off 16:00 UK/Ire.
It’s a somewhat daunting proposition for both teams, who met twice in the 2010 WRWC finals, as, after four years of blood, sweat and tears, it is highly likely that the relative success of both teams’ campaign will be measured by the result of this game. Both Ireland and the USA should rank themselves alongside Canada as genuine outside contenders for a top four spot but, with World Champions New Zealand in the same group, alongside Kazakhstan, how Ireland and the USA progresses is likely to be determined by this result.
In effect, the first game of the competition has become a Quarter Final. Win and you stand a chance to progress into the top four, lose and it’s a play off for the lesser spots, a huge disappointment for either of these teams and for Ireland, who face huge changes after the World Cup, it’s a game that could shape Irish Women’s Rugby for years to come.
That’s some pressure on your first outing in the World Cup Finals, but Ireland appear well prepared. Certainly there have been very positive comments coming from the Ireland camp during the build up and there is bags of experience in the starting XV announced earlier today by Head Coach Philip Doyle.
Captain Fiona Coghlan, together with Grace Davitt, Lynne Cantwell, Niamh Briggs and the returning Tania Rosser have all been there, providing a rich vein of experience throughout the team and it’s the selection of Cooke’s and Ulster’s Davitt, ahead of the “FRU poster girl” Jenny Murphy, that gives us the biggest clue as to how Ireland are going to play this one.
The decision to start Davitt has probably been made a lot easier given that she is in the form of her life and while she would never be expected to match the athletic presence of Murphy she does play a better organised defence and has the ability to whip the ball out wide or create the gaps in the middle of the park to unleash the hugely talented back three of Briggs, Ashleigh Baxter and Alison Miller.
The USA will be well aware of the threat of Briggs and Miller but it’s the recent form of Belfast Harlequins, and Ulster’s, Baxter that fills me with increased confidence for the tournament as a whole. After bursting onto the scene three years ago she played a largely supporting role to Briggs and Miller but after her storming display against Wales, in the last warm up game, it looks as though Baxter has timed her return to form exactly right providing a massive attacking boost for Ireland at just the right time.
While the backs will continue to get the glory, we all know that the outcome of this game will be determined by the battle up front and here Ireland have added a huge amount of athleticism to what has always been a hard working pack.
It’s now a hard working and hugely athletic pack and I think they will catch the USA off their guard. The USA will certainly be prepared for a physical battle but I don’t think that they will appreciate the speed with which Ireland will move the ball away from the point of contact and that should give Ireland a definite, and match winning, advantage.
Regular readers will be aware of our long involvement with the Women’s game in the Midwest and it would be fair to say that the USA Women’s Eagles would be our second favourite international women’s team. I’m therefore pleased to see that our friends in Wisconsin and Chicago will be represented by a player, from long time “FRU Favourite” Brittany Biedenbender‘s current team, Chicago North Shore, none other than captain Kate Daley. However we’ll only be wishing Kate, and her team, luck for the remainder of the tournament, not for this match!
|Niamh Briggs||15||Meya Bizer|
|Ashleigh Baxter||14||Vanesha McGee|
|Lynne Cantwell||13||Akalaini “Bui” Baravilala|
|Grace Davitt||12||Emilie Bydwell|
|Alison Miller||11||Sadie Anderson|
|Nora Stapleton||10||Kimberly Rozier|
|Tania Rosser||9||Jocelyn Tseng|
|Fiona Coghlan (C)||1||Hope Rogers|
|Gillian Bourke||2||Kathryn Augustyn|
|Ailis Egan||3||Jamie Burke|
|Sophie Spence||4||Carmen Farmer|
|Marie Louise Reilly||5||Sarah Walsh|
|Siobhan Fleming||6||Jillion Potter|
|Claire Molloy||7||Lynelle Kugler|
|Heather O’Brien||8||Kate Daley (C)|
|Sharon Lynch||16||Kittery Wagner|
|Fiona Hayes||17||Sarah Chobot|
|Laura Guest||18||Sarah Wilson|
|Paula Fitzpatrick||19||Sharon Blaney|
|Larissa Muldoon||20||Shaina Turley|
|Jenny Murphy||21||Deven Owsiany|
|Jackie Shiels||22||Hannah Stolba|