How Frozen helped Ireland women really let it go against New Zealand
Disney singalong helped inspire Lynne Cantwell and team-mates to a famous win
Ireland’s Grace Davitt and Lynne Cantwell celebrate after their side’s victory over New Zealand in the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Peter Bracken was a contender. A genuine contender. Always had the size. Has a Heineken Cup medal too, won with Wasps in 2007. An Ireland cap passed by this Tullamore tighthead schooled at St Andrews. His time also being the age of Bull Hayes.
Anyway, the Ireland women’s scrum coach asked us to guess the pre-game psych up film watched on Monday night?
Any Given Sunday?
Frozen "Let It Go"
When We Were Kings?
Not that either. Frozen.
Ask anyone with young daughters and they will tell you. Bracken proceeded to relay the story of two sisters, Anna and Elsa . . .
Lynne Cantwell – in a Zen head space yesterday, in stark contrast to her ferocity the previous evening – smiles at the memory of her team-mates’ singalong to Let It Go, delivered in the same cheery fashion they belted out Ireland’s Call before the Black Ferns’ threatening war dance.
“The haka, we didn’t put too much emphasis on it. We just lined up and respected it but you could feel everyone getting closer and closer towards the end so we all came together in our circle afterwards and a collective, spontaneous burst of – not laughter – but ‘Oh my God this is happening.’
“Then we put our hands in and said ‘Let’s go f**king mental!’ That was our team speech.”
There followed a near perfect opening 25 minute assault on New Zealand’s try line that ended under the Irish posts after one handling error was ruthlessly punished.
“Their try, it didn’t really matter because we were still dominant.
“It was kind of a nothing event, we just said, ‘Okay, cool, let’s just continue on the way we are.’”
The evolution of this Ireland team has increased dramatically in recent days but a plan was put in place these past few months.
“Sometimes in phases four, five and six we would have micro-plays and in this game we did start to call them, with two’s and three’s working together and using their feet.”
That’s remarkable to hear considering as recently as the 2011 World Cup, Geordan Murphy lamented the absence of these very same plays as the men struggled to become a sophisticated attacking entity.
“So when the ball came out we were doing pre-planned stuff,” Cantwell continued, “whereas before the ball would come out and we would wait and see. In the opening 20 minutes that was happening a lot and that got our confidence up.”
You never really know.
“There have been loads of turning points in our preparation and we never really know if we are going in the right direction until a performance like this. Those first 20 minutes proved that we had done everything right.”
There has also been a shift from the core leadership group to everyone on the field taking responsibility. The thinking process is dictated by the three P’s – points, possession, position.
“If there is any decision that needs to be made we will make it collectively and depending on where we are at. For example, when we looked at the clock and saw 74 minutes we said ‘Okay girls, this is possession time. Short targets for everything.’
“We were all talking, as opposed to three or four of us and that’s been really good. That’s a simple thing but you can’t introduce that to a team until they are confident with what they know already.”
Tania Rosser’s return at scrumhalf, where her presence and skill-set make Ireland a more dynamic force was another factor.
“I adore playing with Tan. Larissa [Muldoon] is a fabulous nine with so many years ahead of her.”
Rosser will make her better? “Absolutely. Look at Wales at the 2011 World Cup. They were just young men who produced amazing things but historically experience is a better to have in World Cups.”
And, for the first time in a long career Cantwell has changed up her method of preparation.
“I have approached this World Cup differently. I don’t normally analyse teams a whole lot. Usually leave it up to the coaches and glance over it.
“Maybe I have just had more time but I . . .”
Hang on. The manager of a busy London physiotherapy clinic has time?
“Honest. And I’m sleeping a lot.
“I watched three of New Zealand’s games and they didn’t change their attack that much. Maybe they are used to being dominant but there were three or four times when I looked up and thought, ‘I know what they are going to do here. I have seen this before.’ They did it and we just tackled them. It was class.”
“We just tackled them really” doesn’t do justice to the Irish midfield’s endeavour. That’s where New Zealand concentrated their heavy charge, repeatedly pounding the partnership, especially after Jenny Murphy replaced Grace Davitt at half-time.
“I have no worries on the pitch with Jen and Grace. I know they will have my back and I know I will have theirs. So it is fun. The more you can throw at us the better. You pride yourself on your stats after. No clean breaks through the centres.”
So many Irish players produced the game of their lives but Cantwell sees it differently.
“This is always a funny one for me. What I see in our team is potential. That’s why I am very hard on the girls sometimes. That’s my older head looking at them going ‘I know what you can be. You need to try to be that.’”
That happens when any player enters their thirties and feels the pangs of sporting mortality.
“Totally. So it is amazing to see them living up to their potential and if we all do that collectively we get the performance we produced against New Zealand. We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get to where we are now.
Sometimes when you identify your faults you risk confidence issues, bickering or whatever. But we had to change to get better. It was a risk and it’s worked out.
“There is definitely more in us though. There is loads of stuff we haven’t shown yet.”