Ciara Griffin and Ireland turn focus to USA challenge after turbulent week

‘We focus on our squad, our group. We support each other, we back each other’

Women’s autumn international: Ireland v USA, RDS, Friday, 7.15pm – Live on RTÉ Player

Ciara Griffin insists any lack of support from her male counterparts is the least of her concerns as the Ireland women's rugby team look to put a disruptive week behind them against the USA in the RDS on Friday night (kick-off 7.15pm).

Whereas playing at the Ballsbridge venue for the first time is a good news story, the build-up to this autumn international has been dominated by Anthony Eddy’s media briefing on Monday. The IRFU’s director of women’s and sevens rugby, Eddy appeared to apportion a lot of the blame for failing to qualify for next year’s World Cup at the door of the players.

This was greeted with a negative reaction from current international star Cliodhna Moloney as well as a host of former players. Although the response to Eddy's comments hadn't yet extended to the Ireland men's team when Griffin spoke to the media on Thursday morning, it isn't something she will be losing sleep over.

“To be honest, I don’t give it the opportunity to bother me. I’m not being blunt. I don’t let external things like that bother me. I focus on us. We focus on our squad, our group. We support each other, we back each other. That’s the main thing,” the Ireland captain explained.

“Take strength from your team-mates, from your group around you and that’s what we’re going with. If you’re focusing on the support of external bodies, external people at times, you’re always going to be waiting for some time. It’s for us to focus on each other and just push each other forward.”

In what will be Adam Griggs’s penultimate game in the charge of the side – before he makes way for former assistant coach Greg McWilliams in the new year – Griffin and Moloney are named amongst the starting Irish pack.

Alongside Griffin in the backrow, Anna Caplice will be making her first international appearance since February 2020. There is also an interesting positional switch for Eimear Considine, who moves from fullback to take up an outside centre role.

One of six uncapped players in the squad for this autumn window, Tipperary woman Maeve Óg O’Leary is expected to make her debut off the bench.

Due to their fourth-place finish at the finals in Ireland four years ago, the USA automatically qualified for next year’s delayed World Cup. Griffin captained an Irish side that lost to the Eagles at Donnybrook in 2018 and expects another tough test on this occasion.

“The USA are a very strong, formidable team. I think it’s great to actually give them a bit of respect, because they are travelling across here after two strong games against Canada. They’re a very physical team,” Griffin added.

“Good mix of Sevens and 15s. I know some Sevens have left to go back and play in the USA, but we can’t sit on our laurels. We have to be on top of our game here. Show the respect they deserve in terms of us performing to the highest of our ability.”

From Ireland’s starting line-up for this game, seven of them are currently lining out for clubs in England’s Allianz Premier 15s. This could work to their advantage this evening, with the same number of English-based players in the Eagles side.

In the frontrow stakes, Irish tighthead prop Leah Lyons will be going toe-to-toe with her Sale Sharks team-mate Catherine Benson. Likewise, Caplice is set to lock horns against Gloucester Hartpury colleague Kristine Sommer, while the recalled Laura Sheehan will be hoping to claim bagging rights over her Exeter Chiefs compatriots Rachel Johnson and Kate Zackary.

IRELAND: L Delany; L Sheehan, E Considine, S Naoupu, B Parsons; S Flood, A Hughes; L Peat, C Moloney, L Lyons; N Fryday, S Monaghan; C Griffin, E McMahon, A Caplice.

Replacements: N Jones, K O'Dwyer, L Djougang, H O'Connor, M Óg O'Leary, K Dane, E Higgins, A-L Murphy Crowe.

USA: K Canett; T Feury, A Talei Bonte, K Howard, B Mataitoga; M Foster, C Waters; C Benson, S Hamdan, H Rogers; K Sommer, A Washington; R Ehrecke, R Johnson, K Zackary.

Replacements: K Treder, M Learned, N James, H Taufoou, E Cairns, O Ortiz, M Hawkins, S Levy.