Irish women's rugby captain Fiona Coghlan (pictured) shares her thoughts with us on how Ireland's Six Nations campaign has gone so far this season.
By Fiona Coghlan
Anytime you start the competition phase of the season it just seems to fly by.
In December when we met up for the first time as a squad it was a bit of a tough time for me and a few of the other girls, as many of our friends that we have shared such a journey with over the past number of years, had decided to retire. But we didn't have to long to dwell on that, as there were many new faces that were eager to learn. I suppose we were lucky that we managed to keep consistency in most of our coaches and management, which assisted in such a changing squad.
When I was asked prior to the start of the Six Nations how we would fare, I really couldn't look past the Italian game, away from home. It is always tougher playing away from home, particularly now with so many new caps and then others getting familiar with their new positions. In the first half things didn't exactly click but come the second half we were starting to get some cohesion and it was a comprehensive victory, and that was with 7 new caps. The Italians really do know how to entertain and for them it was more than the match, the entire town of Rovigo bought into the festival atmosphere. We met the Mayor at the Town Hall the day before and after the game you sit down for a five course banquet. However the most impressive thing was the regions top hairdressers were brought in to do our hair after the game!
In our next game against France, we were back at what had been fortress Ashbourne. It is a vibrant junior club with one of the best pitches I have played on. We really played some very good rugby against the French and put a lot of pressure on them defensively. Unfortunately a bit of naivety by us and playing too much rugby in our own 22, meant we left that game behind us and lost by just two points.
After a two week break in the competition we headed to sunny Scotland. It was the best weather ever for a Six Nations game in Scotland! We knew Scotland were a team rebuilding like us and the two previous results had gone against them, however we couldnt take anything for granted, as Scotland had beaten us at this same ground in August last year. We got off to a flying start and scored an early try, however the Scots began to exert a lot of pressure on us and scored a great try themselves. In the second half we began playing better rugby and scored some cracking tries. As the game was early and we were staying the night, it was nice to head into Edinburgh after the game and soak up the building atmosphere of the Mens game. We did get some slagging as we were in our number ones and people thought we were a group of air-hostessess
Again another two week break came up and we hadn't met up as a squad and we were travelling to Wales. Although the break is great for the body to recover, it doesnt seem to suit us as a squad, as we don't get to meet up. Wales is a very tough place to travel and we have only won in Wales once in 2005, so we knew the odds were stacked against us and that Wales would be out to avenge their loss to Italy the previous week. Again we got off to a cracking start with an early try, but this just spurred Wales on and they hit back with their own try minutes later. Wales dominated much of the first half possession and just at half time, got an opportunistic try. Although we regrouped and came out with a bit more fight in the second half, our own ill-discipline cost us dearly.
Next up in Ashbourne on St Patricks weekend we face England, we know they are the clear favourites and justifiably so. We must decide to play from the first whistle to the last. I have to admit I love playing against England, they are one of the best teams in the World and you want to measure yourself against them. I have no doubt that our very vocal support will be there to urge us on.
Regardless of the result on Friday, there will be a tinge of sadness in the air as Rachel Reid (Psycho), is stepping down as our Manager. After an illustrious playing career in the back-row for Ireland, Psycho came on-board as Assistant Manager in 2004 and taking over as Manager in 2007. Psycho has been a constant bed-rock of the squad for all the years she has been involved.Psycho has brought so much to the squad, I wont start as the list would honsestly be endless.
However I feel I must mention that Psycho is also well know as a Prankster, although she was never caught in the act!!! She pulled some great pranks through the years, another list that would be endless, most notably in 2008 after the England game in London Irish, she somehow managed to get into a locked room and change our coaches after match suits for cerise pink suits, that they had to wear as they had nothing else!!! She is truly a living legend in the Irish camp.