Ireland faced a tough match in the Six Nations with a 50-14 loss at the hands of France. Both the players and coaches alike will have felt disappointed with the defeat but can find a few positives to take away from the game.
Having 50 points put on you anytime is tough, and Irish rugby players know this feeling all too well. There were still signs of improvement over their performance a week earlier against Wales, however, and although the French held the majority of power, Ireland showed a bit more fight and hunger that was encouraging to see.
In particular, the Irish maul policy was sound and they managed to stifle the French press, while new starter Dannah O’Brien kept her composure well and worked her kicking game expertly. The team worked together to make defensive improvements, getting back off the line quickly, and their multi-phase attack was a testament to their hard work.
Of course, their efforts were hindered by the red card for French player Deshayes. Despite the one-man disadvantage, France were still able to make the most of their 14 players, using the extra space left to kick in behind for two converted tries in the final 10 minutes.
This kind of game management should not be underestimated, and Ireland can learn from the experience to get it right in their next game. They must be honest with each other and make improvements each week. Ireland must now realize the gap in professionalism between themselves and their opponents and be realistic about what they can achieve.
The next game is Italy at home, a team who have a lot of passionate fans to spur them on. Italy recently restricted France to a 22-12 win, although they were only able to come away with 5 points when they faced England. Though Italy will be looking to rebuild their confidence, Ireland should treat this match as a must-win.
In terms of the people mentioned in the article, head coach Joe Schmidt and back Dannah O’Brien deserve special attention. Schmidt has been an integral part of the Irish Rugby team since his appointment in 2010. His keen eye for detail has seen the team excel in their performance, and his ability to identify improvements in each game has seen Ireland continue to progress. O’Brien’s calmness and skill on her Six Nations start will have been a source of pride for fans, and it will be exciting to see how she develops as part of the team.
Overall, Ireland have come a long way, and with commitment to honest assessment and continued progress, they can regain their poised form and strive to achieve more.