Eyes will soon be fixed firmly on Ireland as the Women’s Rugby World Cup takes centre stage, with the action getting underway on Wednesday in Dublin.
It’s a defining moment for the women’s game in Ireland as it signifies just how far the sport has come, especially for the players who were there in the early days.
England kick off their Women’s Rugby World Cup defence against Spain on Wednesday with a team that has evolved and improved since they lifted the trophy in 2014.
Ahead of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Maggie Alphonsi reveals the secret behind England’s 2014 victory exclusively to ESPN.
“When I started out playing for Ireland people used to say ‘you are doing what?’ and just smile at me,” recalled former Ireland captain Fiona Steed.
“So for this World Cup to be on here in Ireland is brilliant for the game and for the players. There’s work being done all over the country and everyone will benefit from this.”
But Steed stresses that what happens after the tournament will be equally as important as hosting it in the first place.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we saw more and more girls play rugby?” she asked. “If we have more playing at grass roots level then we will have more girls going on to play for Ireland.
“That will be a success. We won’t see the long-term effects for five to 10 years but it will be interesting to see the knock-on effect it has in the future.”
Ireland won the bid to host the tournament two years ago and it has been full steam ahead with preparations since then.
One of the key aims was to bring the World Cup trophy on a tour of Ireland to raise awareness of the tournament and in turn the game.
And while the extensive journey the trophy went on will play a big role in the legacy the tournament leaves behind, how Ireland perform on the pitch will have an impact on it too.
“There is the need for success so that the whole country is talking about Ireland. That will help develop the game, grow it.”
Fiona Steed, former Ireland Women’s captain
“First of all it’s important for the girls to go out there and perform at their absolute best, for themselves,” explains Steed.
“This team are going out to win every match, that is the attitude they will have. All the training, heartache and sacrifice they have put into the last few years all comes down to this.
“Secondly, there is the need for success so that the whole country is talking about Ireland being in a semifinal or final. We need people to see what the girls can do, that will help develop the game, grow it.”
Steed has made a seamless move from former player to analyst. She enjoys delivering her verdict on games and players and feels that critical analysis is needed to take the game to a new level.
“We want to hear people talking about how many tackles a player makes and how many turnovers too. Also we need to highlight the mistakes; we need to look at them as elite players.
“It’s nice to hear the stories behind the players but we need more than that now if we want to push women’s rugby on as a game.”
Australia are Ireland’s first opponents in their pool and then it’s Japan and France. They avoided the top three ranked teams in the world but getting to the semifinal stage won’t be easy.
Former Ireland captain Fiona Steed, right, is handed off by England’s Kim Shaylor during a match in 2004. She is excited by the potential offered by the World Cup. Mike Egerton/EMPICS via Getty Images
“I expect Ireland to top their pool, it’s realistic. I think their plan will be to do that and then reassess. Australia will be tricky as they are always unpredictable and can bring something different.
“Japan have been the surprise package in the pool, I don’t think they will come close to beating us but we will have to be on top of our game.
“They are so powerful and fit and technically very good from what I’ve seen. And France are France — you always have to be wary of them.”
But Ireland will be without their captain Niamh Briggs and her absence is a huge blow. She has been replaced by flanker Claire Molloy.
Briggs missed the Six Nations due to a hamstring injury and then after returning to fitness she injured her Achilles.
“I’m gutted for her, as a person and a leader she is brilliant and also goal-kicker, line-kicker and first choice fullback she’s such a big loss,” Steed said.
“Nora Stapleton had some lovely moments in Six Nations at 10; if she can bring them all together and continue to improve on goal-kicking stats it will all work out well.”
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/20283272/women-world-cup-highlights-how-far-game-come-ireland
Ireland ready to seize WRWC opportunity
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