Ireland determined to atone for England defeat

Niamh Briggs insists belief still there ahead of IRB Women’s World Cup third place finale against France

Where to start? Wednesday’s defeat to England made for grim viewing, in stark contrast to the marvellous shock of Canada overcoming France thanks to a wonder try from Magali Harvey.

All this ensures the hosts, in true French fashion, have blown an enormous opportunity and must now face Ireland to see who will finish third at the women’s World Cup.

The review of Ireland’s 40-7 pasting will start well only to freewheel rapidly downhill, ending with Marlie Packer sliding over for her second try.

Both management and players were harsh on themselves in the immediate aftermath, with captain Fiona Coghlan noting a lack of unity in all things they did, while coach Philip Doyle bemoaned the line speed and defence in general.



Factor in the destruction of their scrum, they did pilfer three early England lineouts, and it must be seen for what it was, a comprehensive and fully deserved English victory.

They are a superb team with fantastic individual players like the goal-kicking centre Emily Scarratt, flanker Maggie Alphonsi, loosehead prop Rochelle Clark and a gem of an outhalf in Katy McLean.

It makes the IRB release of the short-list for world player of the year hours before the semi-finals look truly inane.

Not only was it buried in the build up for both games it failed to include an English woman.

Sure, Harvey or Kelly Russell would be deserving winners if Canada win Sunday's final, while France backrow Safi N'Diaye and Niamh Briggs deserve the recognition but overlooking Scarratt and Alphonsi beggars belief.

It’s up there with 2009 when Brian O’Driscoll’s herculean feats were passed over for the men’s award when Richie McCaw got the second of his three gongs.

But what are you going to do? That’s the question facing Ireland and France – living and training mere yards from each other in Marcoussis – must ask themselves.


There is no moment Ireland can pinpoint against England as their downfall. They simply fell off the pace after their 16th- minute try.

England were gifted the latitude to run into the wide channels, making 30, 40 metres far too easily.

The heart must have been ripped out of Doyle’s half-time team talk by the 80-metre reversal when Briggs’ penalty failed to find touch and England trundled downfield to earn a three- pointer for Scarratt. That made it 18-7. There would be no way back.

“Look, it’s a very bad individual mistake and something I feel bad enough about,” said Briggs.

“That was three points but we gifted them many more points before and after that. In the grand scheme of things it was not good but when we came in at half-time we still thought we were in the game.

“But it was our mistakes that let them into it. It didn’t happen for us. That’s the nature of the game, the nature of sport. Come Sunday we can hopefully rectify the mistakes.”

Belief within the Ireland camp prevails then. Even after this, they choose to focus on themselves.

“England are a good team but we made them look very good. We stood off them, didn’t put them under pressure. Our game plan was good, we were confident going into it. I don’t really know what to say to you, it just didn’t happen for us.”

Even before they left the changing room at Stade Jean Bouin several players spoke about the need to seek atonement against France.

“That was an uncharacteristic performance from us and not something we want to finish the World Cup on,” Briggs continued. “Let’s not lose sight of the fact it has been an absolutely fantastic tournament for us. We really want to finish third now; not many of ye would have believed that was possible before the tournament.”

Mine the anger then?

“Absolutely. We’ll bottle that experience. It was a dressingroom I never want to experience again. The silence is deafening. It’s very eerie in there. We stood up and spoke about not feeling like this again on Sunday. Or feel like this ever again.

“Woman’s rugby is on the way up in Ireland,” added the Waterford lady.

“I hope people realise this is just a one-off bad performance and still get behind us for Sunday.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent