Friday 18 January 2019

Irish are left stuck in mud

Depth of talent not there for Ireland: Ireland v Australia Live RTE2 & eirsport, KO 2.0

Second row Ciara Cooney will start instead of Sophie Spence today. Photo: Sportsfile
Second row Ciara Cooney will start instead of Sophie Spence today. Photo: Sportsfile

Maybe, just maybe, Ireland can put their mediocre form behind them in the 5th-8th place play-off as the Women's World Cup moves north to the Kingspan Stadium this afternoon.

This is far from certain as they encounter Australia for the second time in 13 days with the Wallaroos gaining significantly more from the experience than their hosts.

The advantage Australia hold over the Irish is that they should be improving with every game, simply because they haven't played much 15-a-side rugby since the 2015 World Cup.

In contrast, Ireland have not shown any progress from that competition - they made the semi-final.

In fact, they have all the appearance of a collective which has stood still, while the elite nations around them have moved onwards and upwards.

Really, the simple positioning of the Six Nations through the inhospitable months of February and March favours their slow, direct, limited game plan.

In addition, like Ireland's men, the concentration on the Six Nations as the bread-and-butter of the game has been pursued to the detriment of building towards the World Cup.

Despite the argument over the unreasonable influence of the Sevens programme in taking players to Las Vegas during the Six Nations this year, it should have released a number of shirts for Ireland to fill with those up-and-coming through the system.

The truth is the depth of talent is nowhere near where it has to be.

"We've reviewed our own games and looked at areas where we can improve in both attack and defence," said coach Tom Tierney. "There is huge pride in this team and we're looking to finish this tournament with two performances."

From the team that lost to France, there are three changes, with Louise Galvin coming in for Eimear Considine on the wing, hooker Leah Lyons replacing Cliodhna Moloney and Ciara Cooney instead of Sophie Spence in the second row.

They will need to be on point to make it through to fight for fifth-place against either Canada or Wales on Sunday.

Ireland: H Tyrrell; L Galvin, J Murphy, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, N Cronin; L Peat, C Moloney, A Egan, C Cooney, ML Reilly, C Griffin, C Molloy (capt), P Fitzpatrick.

Australia: S Treherne; N Marsters, S Riordan, S Williams, M Murphy; A Hewson, K Barker; L Patu, C Campbell, H Samoa, R Clough, A Hewett, M Boyle, C Butler, G Hamilton.

Verdict: Ireland

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