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Fiona Coghlan: Ireland’s current crop are better than my Grand Slam-winning team

“I see a better quality of player coming through now.”

Fiona Coghlan believes the standard of the current Ireland team is better than the one she captained to a Six Nations Grand Slam and Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Ireland have struggled to compete for the Women’s Six Nations title in recent years, with England and France sharing the last five championship titles between them.

Both sides have doled out heavy beatings to Ireland in recent encounters, with England winning 27-0 in their most recent game while the French claimed a 47-17 victory when they last played the Irish.

Fiona Coghlan on the current Ireland team.

Former Ireland captain Coghlan was speaking at the Guinness ‘Never Settle’ campaign launch and said that she believes the current crop of Ireland players are actually better than her teammates, despite their lack of silverware.

“To be honest, I see a better quality of player coming through now. Players that have come from the minis, up through the youths and then into the senior team,” Coghlan said.

“It’s just the athleticism of them and the skill base they have. A lot of players in my era only started playing when we went to college in our early 20s.

“Hopefully that next generation of players are going to continue to come through to flood into the Irish team. But in saying that, the other countries are forging ahead as well.

“There’s a gap there already and if we continue to let that gap grow there’ll be no catching up with the likes of England and New Zealand, or indeed France.”


‘We’re going to have to talk about professionalism.’

One of the main barriers between Ireland and success is the fact that England have a fully professional squad, while the French team is made up of semi-professional players.

Ireland are still an amateur side, the same as Wales, Scotland and Italy, something which has been widening the gap between themselves and the English and French sides in recent times.

Coghlan believes the only way to narrow this gap is for Ireland to become professional themselves, although she acknowledged that the IRFU’s current financial state will seriously hinder that goal.


“We are going to have to talk about professionalism down the line with the new World XV competition. Players are going to need more time off work, it’s just not going to be feasible to compete unless we do look at it,” Coghlan explained.

“I feel a bit bad talking about professionalism at the moment when the IRFU have such losses and people are losing their jobs and things like that.

“It’s a conversation that probably should have happened pre-covid, but it certainly will have to happen in the years to come if we’re going to be competitive at all.”


Fiona Coghlan: Ireland could struggle with France’s defensive line speed.

Ireland ran rampant against Wales in their first game of the 2021 Women’s Six Nations Championship as they defeated their hosts in Cardiff 45-0.

France are certain to present a far greater challenge than the Welsh did last weekend, and while Coghlan believes Ireland will be the underdogs on Saturday, Les Bleus’ lack of consistency could result in an unlikely Irish win.

“It’s hard to tell. It’s typical France – what side is going to turn up?” Coghlan commented.

“In 2018 they arrived and Ireland were complete underdogs but they turned them over. Last year they went to Scotland and it was a draw – just because France didn’t turn up.

“On paper, I think France are a better team. They’ve been playing in the Elite Feminine 1 [French women’s rugby league] the whole way through. They only had a little break for covid.

“Their starting team against Wales – a lot of people would have deemed it as their subs. So it’ll be very interesting to see France’s squad selection.

“They’re going to be under a lot more pressure this week. Especially because of France’s line speed in defence – they’re not going to have as much time on the ball.

“I loved Ireland’s shape at the weekend. They were looking to get the ball really wide and get the ball into [Beibhinn] Parsons’ hands as quickly as possible. But I just don’t know if those chances are going to be there.

“France are the better team on paper but it just depends on the performance on the day. But I hope it’s going to be a competitive game.”

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