Cliodhna Moloney has insisted Ireland ‘won’t feel sorry for themselves’ after they were on the end of a heavy beating by France.
France proved to be far too strong for Ireland at Donnybrook Stadium last Saturday as they ran out as 56-15 winners to secure a game against England in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations final.
Moloney was speaking as part of Guinness’ Never Settle campaign and believes Ireland should have been “more realistic” after they swept aside Wales in their first match of the Six Nations.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) April 18, 2021
“It was a weak performance from us and no one will deny that. There was a lot of turnover ball and a lot of penalties. We kind of played into their hands and we didn’t execute our gameplan,” Moloney said.
“We won’t lie or sugarcoat that as a squad. We’ll take that on ourselves. We performed well against Wales no doubt, but there were still areas that we should have improved more on.
“We as a nation need to be real about, no disrespect to Wales, but where they are right now. They’re in a bit of a transitional period. They’ve got a new coach and they’ve lost a few players.
“We needed to be a bit more realistic about our performance against Wales leading into [a game against] a very good French team who are clinical and will capitalise on errors.
“We can’t be feeling sorry about ourselves. We’ve our reviews done, we’ve recognised where we went wrong.”
Lack of game time a factor in heavy defeat.
Many players in Ireland’s squad had played just one competitive match since October, which came against Wales the previous week.
Clubs in the All-Ireland League have been unable to play as a result of the current coronavirus restrictions, unlike the French clubs who have been allowed to compete since their current season began.
While some of the Irish players, including Moloney, have been playing in England’s Premier 15s, many still ply their trade with Irish clubs and have gotten very few minutes of competitive rugby in the last year.
“We’ve had a lot of camps and of course there’s a couple of us playing here in the UK, but nothing really replicates test games. Particularly the quality of games that people are getting in the Premiership and French league,” Moloney explained.
“As much as we try to train with players in camps, it’s about having those different pictures presented to you each week. That would have a huge impact on our decision making around ruck time and defensive structures.
“That’s repetition that you can’t really get, as much as you try to replicate that in camps and when we run internal games. You’re only really defending your own team so you’re defending the structures that you’re used to.
“If you’re defending a picture that France will throw at you – which is an unstructured, turnover style of play – that’s something that you’re not used to… You can’t replicate that in training camps as much as we try to.”
Can Ireland replicate the systems in England and France?
Moloney first joined Wasps in the Premier 15s in 2018, having previously played her rugby with Railway Union in the All-Ireland League.
The ring-fenced top-tier English women’s rugby league was set up in 2017, and has allowed players to consistently compete at a high standard week in and week out.
The founding of that league, along with 28 fully professional contracts being handed out 28 England internationals since 2019, has seen the English widen the gap between themselves and their fellow Six Nations sides, save for semi-professional outfit France.
While Moloney recognises that the systems in England and France are currently superior to the Irish one, she doesn’t believe that it would be impossible for Ireland to replicate their rivals.
‘It’s nothing we couldn’t create in Ireland.’
“It certainly is different and it’s down to a lot of things. The amount of players playing the game over here is huge. There’s 10 teams and in the first year that I came over each team had 60 players on their books.
“The vast quantity of players bleeds into the training that you have. When you’ve got loads of numbers at training you can run a full attack and run a full defence.
“Some of the English girls are professional or semi-professional so there are sessions that have to be run during the day as part of an RFU obligation.
“Subsequently, the club players get to go to those sessions, and so do the Irish, Welsh and Scottish players if they’re available.
“So it’s the frequency of training, the numbers that are playing and the access to coaches really.
“It is different but it’s nothing a million miles away that we couldn’t create in Ireland. Be it a club structure or an inter provincial structure, it’s not out of reach.
“It would require, number one – covid to go away – and then number two – a little bit of investment and buy-in from the community and more players playing the game.”