Ireland hatching game plan to beat ‘very strong’ England

So much of England’s dominance stems from Fisher, Alphonsi and Hunter triumvirate

England and Canada playing out a 12-12 draw in a last pool game on Saturday was convenient as it took The Black Ferns out of the tournament.

France were overjoyed, Ireland weren't complaining, but to suggest a wink and nudge scenario would be disingenuous.

It was a cracking encounter that painted the Canadians in a positive light, once again proved the immense power of the English maul yet at the same time shows a few glitches in Gary Street’s red rose machine.

Only a few, mind. Greg McWilliams, Ireland attack coach who takes up residency at Yale next month as the Ivy League university's new director of rugby, has been bunkered in the Irish camp at Marcoussis hatching a game plan with head coach Philip Doyle and chief analyst Lenny Browne.


“There is no doubt England are a powerful side,” said McWilliams yesterday.

“They’ve a very strong backrow and are very skilful in the backs so they can play a wide game or keep it narrow. It means we have to go into the game expecting a lot of things.”

So much of their dominance stems from the Heather Fisher, Maggie Alphonsi and Sarah Hunter triumvirate, the physicality of which really needs to be seen to be believed.

“But it should be a good contest,” McWilliams continued. “We’ve closed the gap over the last number years so this will be the ultimate test to see were we’ve come as a squad because England do look like the best team in the world at the moment.”

This is supported by tournament statistics. Despite drawing with Canada, of the semi-finalists they finished with the most points (123) and most tries (17). Granted, the French try line has yet to be breached.

Ireland beat England 25-0 in Ashbourne last year en route to the Grand Slam but that victory should be taken with a pinch of salt. The RFU tried a dual focus on Sevens and 15-aside in 2013. It backfired in both codes, and that master plan has been shelved until after this tournament.

Ireland, despite the IRFU’s wish, also put all their good eggs into the 15-aside game and the benefit is plain to see.

Rotation policy

The English camp was adamant yesterday that captain and outhalf

Katy Mclean

was held on the bench against Canada due to “a squad rotation policy” and will be fit for tomorrow.

Either way it safe to assume they will do what most big English packs do and target Ireland’s strengths – which means the lineout maul and a scrum that has become a genuine weapon under Peter Bracken’s tutelage.

If they get the upper hand then Emily Scarratt, switched from fullback to centre of late, will come thundering through midfield. But they have weapons everywhere.

“At this stage the coaching team has enormous trust in the girls,” McWilliams added. “They know what they have to do, they just have to go out and do it.”

Doyle will announce the Ireland team this morning.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent