Ireland 19 Wales 27
ace France watched Ireland wilt under the pressure exerted by the power of the Welsh pack, they will have been licking their lips at the prospect of inflicting even more pain this weekend.
For all that Wales were predictable in their approach, they were hugely effective, as Ireland were unable to cope with the physicality, as soon as they cranked up the pressure around the set-piece and maul.
This is a strong Welsh forward unit, yet it is not on the same level as France, and that alone should be a warning about the sheer scale of the challenge that lies ahead.
Drawing on the comfort of playing in front of a record home crowd (6,113) at the RDS, Ireland were undone by two late tries, but there will be no place to hide in Toulouse on Saturday, as Greg McWilliams’ side look to bounce back .
The players will be all the better for the difficult experience and as many of them found out, learning lessons on the international stage is not easy. Two players, Aoibheann Reilly and Anna McGann, made their test debuts to further strengthen the talent pool, while for Nichola Fryday, leading her country for the first time brought about its own challenges.
On Friday night at the team hotel, Brian O’Driscoll presented the squad with their jerseys and the former Ireland captain had plenty of words of encouragement for the current skipper.
“It was great to have Brian in,” Friday said. “He’s a legend of the sport and I think it was quite fitting for our first jersey presentation as a new group to have someone of that caliber come into it.
“He spoke a lot about our new caps that were going to get to play. It was a really special moment for us as a squad to have someone like Brian in. It was great.”
Ireland led until the 73rd minute, by which stage Eimear Considine had been sent to the bin, and as Wales sensed blood, they ran in two tries in the closing stages to snatch victory and leave Ireland empty-handed. Before the late drama, Ireland had scored three impressive tries of their own courtesy of the electric Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, the outstanding Linda Djougang and the impressive Stacey Flood.
Despite the collapse, there were enough positives to suggest Ireland are moving in the right direction under McWilliams, even if it will take time to get this team back to where they need to be.
“There are definitely areas we can improve upon, but it will be the same process for us now,” Fryday said. “We’ll preview France and we’ll review Wales to see what we can fix, but it’s business as usual.
“It is a big step up. Any international match is. It’s always going to be those tight margins that go one way or the other.
“There’s a lot of experience within the squad and there’s girls that got that step up for the first time. You look at Aoibheann Reilly, she settled straight into it. She didn’t show that she was off the pace or anything like that.
“The work we’ve done the last few weeks, the fitness is there for it. I think it’s a big jump, but they managed it well.”
Fryday led by example as she quietly went about her business. She has big boots to fill following Ciara Griffin’s premature retirement, and as the Offaly lock gears up for another tough test in France, she is determined not to allow the captaincy to be a burden.
“I just treated it as normal,” Fryday added. “I have players within the squad that I can lean upon and all the girls have been so supportive this week. I did my previews with the team and then individually. My week didn’t really change apart from a few interviews. It was business as usual for me.”
Nothing less than a home win will be seen as business as usual for France on Saturday, as Ireland seek to right some of their wrongs.
IRELAND – E considine; AL Murphy Crowe (B Parsons 54), E Higgins, S Flood, L Mulhall (E Breen 63); N Cronin, A Reilly (K Dane 59); L Djougang, N Jones, K O’Dwyer (C Pearse 54); N Fryday (capt) (H O’Connor 79), S Monaghan; D Wall, E McMahon, B Hogan (A McGann 62).
WALES – K Powell; L Neumann, H Jones, K Lake, J Joyce; E Snowsill (R Wilkins, 70), K Bevan (F Lewis, 55); G Pyrs (C Hope 55), C Phillips (K Jones 52), C Hale (D Rose 62); N John (S Harries 52), G Crabb; A Butchers, A Calendar (B Lewis 62), S Lillicrap (capt).
REF – K Roche (USA)
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/ireland-skipper-nichola-fryday-targets-improvements-for-tough-french-test-41493063.html Ireland skipper Nichola Fryday targets improvements for tough French test