“What should we do with the club structure? What should we do with everything, really?”
In terms of timing, Cliodhna Moloney was probably wishing she had been selected to go first, or even last.
As it was, she was at home on a Tuesday, helping to promote the Guinness campaign to raise awareness of women’s rugby and being asked for her views on how we fix the game here.
Such searching questions on domestic structure, professionalism, underage systems and inter-pro sides taking on the best club sides in Europe was the topic du jour because France doled out a 56-15 beating to Ireland last Saturday. When Sene Naoupu was up, last week, the mood was brighter. The future an undiscovered country.
Moloney delivered one of Ireland’s two tries against the French, but she was not at her best against a well-drilled unit that is full of genuine stars. Still, she is rueful when she reflects on how quickly the game got away.
“Look, at bit of realism was probably needed after both results,” she tells us.
“Wales will probably admit that they’re not where they would like to be. They’ve got a new coach and they are in a transitional period. And, similarly, we made a few mistakes that we shouldn’t have in that game.
“Then, against France, we just did not execute our game-plan, coughed up possession and made a few individual mistakes. In terms of systems, defence and attack, we just did not execute what we wanted to and we didn’t perform under pressure from a really, really top international side, which France are.
“We let ourselves down but we’ve got to be quite objective in the reviews. We’ve had our post-match hangover and we’ve been buried in a hole for the past two days, just looking at the game. Now, it’s about looking forward to Italy.”
For Moloney, who plays her club rugby with Wasps, Ireland conceding tries after giving up possession – either through rips, turnovers or errors – was high up on the list of frustrations.
The other part of the game that rankled her, as a forward, was how the set-piece wobbled under pressure.
“We couldn’t problem solve on the day and that caused us issues,” she admits. “But that’s another thing with facing different opposition – needing to problem-solve in high pressure situations. That only comes from facing different sorts of opposition.”
“I’ve said it a few times already,” the Galway native adds, “but I’d love to be playing them again this weekend. We’ve realised and learned so much.”
Moloney has a point here, in that Ireland and Wales have seen plenty of each other in the past 18 months. Italy too. Ireland need more games against the likes of England and France to have their feet held to the fire.
It is to that end, then, that this weekend’s third and fourth place playoff against the Italians is important to this Irish team.
The likes of Dorothy Wall, Anna Caplice and Ireland coach Adam Griggs may have all stated the goal was to reach the final, this weekend, before the tournament commenced. That loss to France was not entirely unexpected so Ireland are back to Plan B – trying to prove they are the best bet in the chasing pack.
From 2023, finishing third in the Six Nations will qualify a nation for the WXV tournament. Ireland still dream of mixing it with France and England, but getting into the top tier of the WXV is now an extra carrot to chase.
Cliodhna Moloney has joined forces with Guinness as part of its pledge to Never Settle until everyone belongs in sport. Guinness has backed the introduction of the Women’s Six Nations Player of the Championship accolade and has teamed up with Wikimedia to add to profiles of all the players competing in the championship. (PIC: INPHO)
“We want to get that third place. We want to be number three in Europe and just behind France and England, clipping at their heels,” she says.
“And hopefully, when we do get another shot at them, we put in a better performance and see where that takes us.”