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There is a lot to be learned from Women’s RWC disappointment

By Frank Quinn
OUR hosting of the WRWC did not turn out according to plan. After three poor under-performances we failed to make the semi finals where the real tournament starts. We surrendered that privilege to New Zealand v USA and France v England, to finish off the tournament.
Sure, we play off for 5-8th place in Belfast and there is a play off for 9-12th place. Ireland play Australia next Tuesday in Belfast, kick-off 1.30 and they will be trying to get something out of this campaign.
It is all happening on Tom Tierney’s watch. The former Garryowen and Irish International player put everything into the preparation for this World Cup challenge but some of the pre-tournament decisions have been criticised, particularly the playing of two games behind closed doors against Japan and Spain instead of at the UCD tournament ground.
Former Irish players Fiona Steed and Lynne Cantwell provided firm but robust analysis on RTE and did not hide their disappointment with some of the displays or the tactics by the team in the three games.
The Japan match was particularly disappointing tacticly. They were out-manoeuvred by a smaller side who stole line-outs and made a mess of the Irish scrum. The Japanese used their heads against the Irish ‘heavies’ in their scrum and quick ball in, and a even quicker ball out, left the Irish eight stranded. If they had more pace in the centre they could have scored more. In the end the Irish ‘heavies’ came to the rescue with two pushover tries to save their blushes.
Overall, in my view, the error count by the Irish team was dreadful. Their game was full of knock-ons, dropped balls and very poor handling skills after all the pre-tournament hype and especially in the second tense pool game. The Australian game was not much better. It was the Aussies’ fourth game of 15-woman rugby in four years as there was no competition at all ‘down under.’ The French game was over at half-time with the score at 21-0 after Ireland were completely outclassed and over-run. No amount of ‘proud Irish spirit’ and ‘fighting/battling on’ convinces me that this was in any way a reasonable performance.
As for the tournament itself as a Womens Rugby World Cup, World Rugby needs to review this tournament and the qualification criteria. Twelve teams qualified for the WRWC in three pools of four but the bottom two teams in each pool played three games each (18 games in total) and managed to win three and obviously lost 15 games. The other two teams, Ireland and Canada, won two games each.
Australia, Spain and Wales managed just one win but luckless Hong Kong, Italy and Japan ended with zero points so there is a case to disregard the 5th to 12th place games as useless seedings information.
Full marks to the organisers of the event on this island and I wish the top four teams and the tournament well in the semi-final shootouts and the final in Belfast. Let’s hope they draw the crowds to witness this historic WRWC in Ireland.

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