Reflecting on agonising Twickenham allows great strides before Dublin
Walking in to the most famous rugby stadium felt like entering our own Roman Coliseum
Larissa Muldoon celebrates scoring a try for Ireland during their Six Nations clash with England in Twickenham, on February 22nd, 2014. Ireland lost 17-10. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
It takes guts to openly proclaim you want to win something. That’s what made losing at Twickenham such a tough pill to swallow.
But the positives to be gathered from defeat to England can be enormous because it demanded a serious period of reflection by us as a group.
We have done this already. Painful as it was, it might just be the catalyst for what happens next.
After dissecting the game until the early hours, our captain Fiona Coghlan called a player’s meeting on Sunday morning. These don’t happen routinely, but it’s the best forum to have an open chat and resolve to ultimately agree on what needs to be addressed and changed.
It proved really cathartic. We’ve always said the most beneficial lessons are learned during a campaign. All the planning and training in the world cannot replicate a match environment. Especially against the number two ranked side in the world.
This is the moment I love getting to; when we can make genuinely strides as a team. There is no better time for that than the aftermath of an agonising set-back.
In the game itself our defence was excellent, but we drifted off our game-plan in attack.
If had we played more heads-up rugby and worked through the phases it could have been a special day.
We always say there is nothing that we can’t fix ourselves. We still have the willingness and drive to keep pushing to correct our mistakes. There is no question that we have the ability.
We will reflect on an incredible experience. One of the proudest moments as Ireland players was playing on the same stage as our male counterparts in the most famous rugby stadium in the world.
It doesn’t lessen the disappointment of missing out on a Triple Crown, but it is something we can always say we were a part of. That matters.
On Friday we headed to Twickenham for a familiarisation walk about. The kickers went to work while the rest of us got a feel for what the pitch underfoot.
Andy Weir, our bag man, could scout how many English flags, roses and pictures that needed to be blocked off the next day in our dressingroom. He duly replaced them with emerald green paraphernalia.
This Belfast man has an incredible ability to understand what the team need to stay relaxed.
The work he does in the background is so selfless and supportive, no one ever asks how he acquires certain things and nuggets of information; he just gives us a little wry smile and we know not to ask.
Later that night we had our latest jersey presentation and RTÉ radio commentator Michael Corcoran walks in. The self professed addict of our game since 2013, Corky said he hadn’t prepared anything. But no better man to tell a great story. He remembered 2004 when the Irish men beat the then world champions at Twickenham. How? Because they believed they could. Twenty minutes later any ounce of doubt in the room had melted away.
That mood could still be felt on Saturday morning.
There were more nerves than usual, but we were a very excited group leaving the hotel.
We arrived at the stadium with enough time to settle in and watch the first half of the men in the dressingroom. When Rob Kearney scored under the posts early in the second half, the Irish roars seeped down through the walls.
After that we blocked it out. But that wasn’t easy when we got onto the field. About five minutes before full-time we were in the tunnel and as soon as Craig Joubert’s whistle sounded we went out to do our warm-up, passing our friend Joe Schmidt who swallowed his disappointment to wish us the best.
I now know how the gladiators felt entering the Coliseum in Rome – 82,000 people were on their feet entranced by the dying moments of the other game.
It was difficult to focus on stretching, catching and passing as our peripheral vision was showered by an array of colours and noise. It took a few minutes to adjust before we got into our condensed warm-up (to fit in with the 6.20pm kick-off).
The game itself flew by. The overwhelming emotion was dictated by the scoreboard: 17-10. In the immediate aftermath nothing else mattered.
Our legendary second row Mary Louise Reilly, aka Mazzie, came up with the great idea to lighten the mood. She suggested we get a picture in Twickers with all our respective GAA county jerseys.
When would we get such a chance again?
We got to work organising this and, of course, Dan Sheridan was there to take the shot. A few girls were missing due to random drug testing but it put a much needed smile across all our faces, snapping us out of the initial low of losing such tight game.
We are taking this weekend off, which I think is important to recharge the batteries mid-tournament, but already I can’t wait for us to be back together because being in camp has become our reality. The outside world feels a little strange mid-tournament!
When we do meet up again it will be for a highlight in all of our careers: playing for Ireland at our own national stadium. And on the same day Brian O’Driscoll wears the same green jersey in Dublin for the last time.