Ireland Women suffered their first defeat of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup going down 21 – 5 to France in the Pool C match at the UCD Bowl on Thursday evening. The result means that Ireland slip into the 5th – 8th place play offs with France progressing to the Cup Semi-finals.
The three Irish matches in the WRWC2017 Pool stages have followed the same basic pattern. Ireland taken to task in the first half before the players resort to taking it up through their forwards, relying on the grit and determination that has papered over so many cracks in the system the last three years. You have to feel sorry for this group of players who have been let down.
A full time director of women’s rugby and a full time women’s coach appear to have added little to the mix, and it’s difficult to see where the much larger investment in the women’s game has gone. The ease with which their tactics have been dismantled by their opposing coaches has been a big let down and, worst of all, the basic skill set of the group has deteriorated.
France on the other hand were coached perfectly as they destroyed Ireland in the first half. The movement of their back rows, centres, wings, full back and second rows was a joy to behold. Even their front row, who were fantastic, showed more line breaks than Ireland’s backs combined.
Les Bleues dominated the opening exchanges and a strong run by the wonderful Safi N’Diaye created panic in the Irish defence before quick hands set up flanker Romane Menager who skipped through the defence to score the opening try. Full back Montserrat Amedee converted and France led 7 – 0 after seven minutes.
Their point a minute scoring rate continued as they found themselves 14 up after fourteen minutes as Caroline Drouin sent Caroline Ladagnous over out wide. Shannon Izar adding the extras.
Ireland worked hard to gain a finger-hold on the game but it was all one dimensional with their attacks easily snubbed by the French. They looked for solace in their line out but even that was decimated by the French who gave Ireland free reign to catch the ball before sending in N’Diaye to wreck havoc, something Ireland never came to grips with.
Unfortunately, any Irish attack just appeared to give the French more room to run into and they did it with some style. A wonderful out the back door pass by Elodie Poublan sent Chloe Pelle clear up the right before N’Diaye and Julie Duval took the ball to the line for Ladagnos to compete the move for her brace. Amedee converted and France led 21 – 0 on the half hour mark.
France had a couple of chances before the break but Ireland managed to scramble their defence to hold them out, the teams turning round with France leading 21 – 0.
France swapped out key players at the start of the second half but they left on N’Diaye who switched from magnificent in attack to magnificent in defence. It was all too one dimensional from Ireland and though they enjoyed what looked like 90% possession and territory in the second half they offered little beyond the pick and drive.
Ireland did try and mix up their line out but the sight of N’Diaye manhandling Sophie Spence into touch, after one variation, will live long in the memory.
Ireland’s determination to play to the end did see them pick up a late try through replacement hooker Cliodhna Moloney who was helped over the try line by late replacement Ashleigh Baxter. The conversion was pushed well wide by Hannah Tyrrell with the last kick of the game.
Final score: France 21 Ireland 5.
Ireland: Hannah Tyrrell, Eimear Considine, Jenny Murphy, Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller, Nora Stapleton, Nicole Cronin, Lindsay Peat, Leah Lyons, Ailis Egan, Sophie Spence, Marie Louise Reilly, Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Paula Fitzpatrick. Replacements: Cliodhna Moloney, Ruth O’Reilly, Ciara O’Connor, Ashleigh Baxter, Heather O’Brien, Larissa Muldoon, Katie Fitzhenry, Louise Galvin
Ireland now face Australia in the 5th – 8th place play offs and they have plenty to work on ahead of that fixture at Ravenhill on Tuesday 22nd, kick off 14:00. The lack of vision in the back line and the ease with which their scrum and line out were destroyed by Japan and France are the major concerns.