The 2022 Women’s Six Nations was the first “stand alone” competition held outside of the traditional February/March time frame with the five rounds played in March and April.
From an Irish point of view it was the first tournament with the new head coach Greg McWilliams in charge. McWilliams tasked with rebuilding the side after 6 years of a declining performance from the Ireland Women’s international side culminating in their failure to qualify for the 2021 Women’s World Cup – the competition delayed to October 2022 due to the Covid pandemic.
Off the field, the tournament is regarded as one of the most successful ever with the games free to view on the BBC and record attendances claimed for most games though actual attendance figures are not available for the latter rounds.
On the field, the tournament was dominated by England and France. England averaged winning margins of more than 60 points per game against the other four sides with France averaging, slightly less than, a 30 point winning margin against the same.
Ireland won two of their five games, losing to Wales, France and England and beating Italy and Scotland.
RDS Arena, Dublin
TRY: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Linda Djougang, Stacey Flood.
CON: Nicole Cronin 2
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse
TRY: Eve Higgins
Musgrave Park, Cork
TRY: Lucy Mulhall, Neve Jones, Eve Higgins, Penalty Try, Katie O’Dwyer
Welford Road, Leicester
Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast
TRY: Neve Jones, Enya Breen.
CON: Enya Breen
PEN: Hannah O’Connor
The results left Ireland with a fourth place finish. It’s been a while since we have had a completed Women’s Six Nations Tournament but it’s a place higher than their 5th place finish in the last completed series in 2019.
2022 Women Six Nations Final Standings
Greg McWilliams used 35 players throughout the 2022 Women’s Six Nations, for comparison there were 27 players used in the 3 match 2021 tournament, 25 used over 4 competed games in the 2020 tournament and 31 used in the 2019 competition.
Seven players, Aoibheann Reilly, Anna McGann, Christy Haney, Aoife Wafer, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Niamh Byrne and Vicky Irwin all made their International XV’s debuts for Ireland.
Leinster continue to be the dominant province with 49% of the players named and they accounted for 39% of the minutes played. This is up 10% from the 2019 minutes played but down 5% from last season’s high of 44% minutes played for Leinster players.
Ulster’s minutes played is up 4% from last season, unfortunately though there is no Ulster club representation following Neve Jones‘ move to Gloucester-Hartpury
Looking at the representation by club there was a significant increase in players named from Railway Union, which is no surprise due to their domination of the AIL competitions, but in terms of playing time they only got players on the pitch for 2% more game time than, their nearest rivals, Blackrock College.
However, given the number of 7s players in the squad and the overseas club representation it was a team that did little to represent the Women’s AIL, which was a shame.
Ireland’s player statistics account for 5,968 minutes out of a maximum of 6,000 the other 32 minutes lost due to 3 yellow and 1 red card.
No player played every minute of every game but it is still somewhat surprising the top six players in terms of minutes played are all forwards with Linda Djougang and Neve Jones bucking current trends by consistently playing over 70 minutes per game in the front row.
However, there is little doubt the mass exodus of the 7s players, after three games, have warped the stats with Eve Higgins, Stacey Flood and Lucy Mulhall all recording appearance minutes greater than 96% for the matches they were available.
Wasps Edel McMahon topped the minutes played table playing for 96.5% of the available time, missing only 14 minutes over the five games.
The 90 point deficit is the largest points deficit for Ireland Women in the Six Nations since 2010 (when we started keeping records), thanks largely to the 69 unanswered points scored by England.
Perhaps more worryingly the 68 points scored is the lowest total scored by Ireland since 2010, the next nearest being 70 points in 2020 when only four games were completed.
Ireland’s points came from 11 tries, 5 conversions and a penalty goal. With a try and a conversion coming from a penalty try, Ireland’s conversion rate was 40% with 4 conversions from 10 attempts.
Neve Jones and Eve Higgins topped the try, and points, scoring charts with 10 points each from 2 tries.
Try assists were also monitored in the stats with Sam Monaghan and Stacey Flood recognised for 2 each with Linda Djougang, Nicole Cronin, Eimear Considine and Kathryn Dane recognised for one each.
Meters per carry
Meters per carry
Ireland averaged just over 106 carries per game compared to an average of 123 carries by their opponents, Ireland’s carries per game down about 20% on previous seasons.
The spread of carries between forwards and backs seems pretty similar to previous seasons, the main issue being they just weren’t getting possession as often as in the past.
Ireland had their joint highest, and identical, meters carried and number of carries figures against Italy and France. Italy tried to match Ireland, but their second string squad weren’t able to, whereas France carried for 221 fewer meters than Ireland (about 25% less) but concentrated in the red zones to open Ireland up.
Despite missing out a game due to injury, Sam Monaghan was Ireland’s main carrier with 49 carries, captain Nicola Fryday was second with 43.
Passes and Offloads
Offloads per 100 passes
Offloads per 100 passes
Open play in the Women’s Six Nations was disappointing. It’s not restricted to the women’s game, there is so much focus on defence these days that the game is largely consists of breakdown to breakdown to handling error. Unfortunately in the women’s game this hands a disproportionate advantage to the superheavyweight English pack.
Keeping the ball alive through passing and offloads is one way of reducing the physical advantage with offloads having the additional benefit of tying in a couple of defenders and in my opining makes the game a much more exciting spectacle.
A miserly 3 – 4 off loads per 100 passes tells the story and it was fairly similar for most of the teams against Ireland, France the only exception with a near 10% or 1 in 10 offloads per pass.
It’s a good area to work on for Ireland and could deliver a pretty spectacular improvement for a team that is never going to be able to consistently compete in the superheavyweight stakes.
Sam Monaghan, despite only completing 4.5 passes per game had the highest offload rate at 33% or 1 in 3 offloads per pass of the players that completed 10 or more passes over the series.
Ireland attempted a total of 922 tackles over the five games with 796 successful, giving a success rate of 86% compared to 89% for their opponents. Their opponents figures were boosted by a 95% tackle success for England and Ireland actually had the third best tackle success rate above Wales at 84% and France at 82%.
Once again, France’s figures are interesting and perhaps indicative of a team picking their moments to fully commit rather than expend a lot of energy trying to skittle everyone over every time?
Irrespective of that, the figures from McMahon and Jones are impressive, though personally I’d rather have seen Jones carry more and tackle less.
Teams generally concede possession more times than they win it, though teams would be looking for a 40% win rate or better.
Only Italy had a lower win rate than Ireland and looking back at the games Ireland had particular issues taking the ball into contact with the player far too upright. Along with the passing this is another good work on for Ireland which should yield fairly quick results.
In terms of turnovers, this is one area where Ulster says no with Neve Jones conceding nothing while winning six, the sort of figures the “Turnover Queen” Claire Molloy would have been proud off.
Handling errors are part and partial of the modern game with blitz defences causing errors and Ireland’s average of just under 16 per game is in their “usual” ballpark and somewhat less than their opponents.
Looking at handling errors per pass, Ireland’s error rate comes in at 9% and their opponents 10% so not a lot in it. It’s all about maintaining skills under pressure and it’s something that can be worked on. Wales, who kept things fairly simple in their win against Ireland produced an extraordinarily low 4% handling error rate whereas the makeshift Italian side posted one in excess of 14%.
You would expect those players that complete the most passes to have the most handling errors, so in defence of the top 3 in the table below Dane’s handling error rate comes in at 3%, Reilly’s at 6% and Cronin’s at 10%
Considering the number of scoring chances that come from attacking line outs penalties conceded is a big work on for Ireland who conceded an average of 3 more penalties per game than their opponents.
The benchmark of 10 or less penalties per game is oft quoted but that has slipped up with the introduction of the new tackle laws. Italy were the only side that conceded more penalties than Ireland in their head to heads, Wales setting the benchmark by only conceding 5 in their opening round meeting.
All the statistics used in this report came from the Official Womens Six Nations site you can view our consolidated stats for all the Ireland players by clicking below.