Ireland benefiting from bringing Sevens players into 15s fold

Adam Griggs names same starting XV for Saturday’s Six Nations clash in Donnybrook

People are quick to list all the negative connotations surrounding a virus that has irrevocably altered human existence, but the pandemic does have a silver lining for Irish rugby.

If not for the collapse of the Sevens world series, due to its nomadic nature, Ireland head coach Adam Griggs could not cap Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe straight after Eve Higgins was exposed to the international 15s game in Cardiff Arms Park.

Murphy Crowe, who has scored 98 tries in 131 seven-minute Sevens games, is set to make her debut off the bench against France on Saturday at Energia Park (kick-off 2.15pm, live on RTÉ Two).

The Tipperary flyer and Blackrock hooker Emma Hooban are the only additions to the matchday squad for what is effectively a Six Nations semi-final, as Griggs names the same starting XV that hammered Wales 45-0.

“There is no secret about Amee-Leigh’s athletic ability and how dynamic she is,” said Griggs. “She brings that X-factor to the Sevens stage.

“I know we spoke about how she is still learning some of the intricacies of the game but we had her with us last week and she travelled to Wales so she could get a feel for what a Test match and game day is all about.”

Not that Ireland are short of pace with Eimear Considine, Béibhinn Parsons and Lauren Delany intent on picking holes in a potentially lethal French backline. Considine and Parsons scored two tries apiece against Wales.

“I think we showed that we can play rugby,” said Griggs. “The more game time we get the better we will be. I think this game comes to us at a good time, we are at home and have the comfort of our surroundings.

“We are confident that we can take a step up from last week. People are talking about a great start but we know we’ve got more in us.”

In particular, the New Zealander – who came through the Canterbury Crusaders academy system – identifies the settled halfback pairing of Hannah Tyrrell and Kathryn Dane as essential performers if Ireland are to reach a championship decider away to England on April 24th.

“That is the core of your team, they touch the ball the most, and certainly the way we want to play they need to be on the ball and making good decisions. They have been really important to us.

“The backrow is another combination that can compete with the world’s best. We are expecting them, on both sides of the ball, to stand up this week.”

Ciara Griffin continues to captain the side from number eight with Claire Molloy, the veteran openside, and Dorothy Wall, the powerful 20-year-old blindside, set to have a huge bearing on the result.

Should Ireland lose to France and Italy beat Scotland, the final match of the Six Nations, away to the Italians, would be under threat due to the need for Irish amateur players and coaches to enter 10 days of mandatory hotel quarantine on their return to Dublin.

This fact alone increases the need to beat what is a semi-professional French side.

“We definitely have to add some variations to our play,” Griggs added. “We laid some good platforms last week but like everything, a different opposition brings different challenges.

“The core of the game we’ve spoken about, certainly around attack, is a checklist of three things. Can we play through them? Can we play around them? And can we play over the top of them?

“We’ve certainly talked about those areas but the breakdown will be important. You can’t really use your threats out wide or use the ball if you don’t win that breakdown first and secure the ball. So that’s going to be a real battle this weekend.”

IRELAND: Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster); Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby), Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Béibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Blackrock College/Connacht); Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster)); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster); Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Blackrock College/Connacht); Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/ Munster), Claire Molloy (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Ciara Griffin (Captain)(UL Bohemian/Munster).

Replacements: Emma Hooban (Blackrock College/Leinster), Katie O'Dwyer (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Feely (Blackrock College/Connacht), Brittany Hogan (DCU/Old Belvedere/Ulster), Hannah O'Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster), Emily Lane (Blackrock College/Munster), Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster).