THOUGH THEY WERE emphatically beaten by England in yesterday evening’s semi-final in Paris, Ireland Women are hopeful that their World Cup journey has inspired female players at home.
A win over New Zealand in the pool stages – the first time Ireland had met the Black Ferns in the 15s code – stands out as the clear highlight of their campaign, while Philip Doyle’s side can still finish third overall.
The belief that outright glory was possible came to an abrupt halt in Stade Jean-Bouin against a tidal wave of English composure and class, but Ireland coach Doyle stated his hope that his side had provided some a spark for young Irish sportswomen.
“I just hope so; obviously you want to grow the game. There are some very good rugby players and young ladies playing rugby back home. I just hope that they take the ball up really early and get the age level down, just get the growth into the game.
It’s [been] a huge growth spurt in Ireland and I think this has just boosted it that bit more. Hopefully in a few years, we’ll get back into another semi-final and get even further on.”
Captain Fiona Coghlan echoed Doyle’s sentiments, before adding that the good work done in Irish women’s rugby in recent years must continually be built upon. The Leinster prop believes there can be further improvement of the structuring of the Irish game.
“I think it’s imperative, with young girls playing, I think it’s imperative that they see there’s something to play for,” said Coghlan.
“I think the pathways need to be put in place for them to get the opportunity to play up to the level that gets them to international rugby as quickly as possible.”
Ireland’s bitter post-match disappointment made it difficult to assess whether or not their World Cup remains a positive one overall.
Look, we were coming into this World Cup targeting a semi-final and this is where we got,” said Doyle after the final whistle, and indeed Ireland will have achieved their best-ever result in the tournament even if they lose Sunday’s play-off.
Second row Sophie Spence looked to the coverage women’s rugby has received in Ireland during this World Cup as a positive, and suggested that she and her teammates have had a strong campaign.
“We’ve made the semi-final. It wasn’t a good day in the office, we move on to Sunday. We’ve still got third place to go for and this is fantastic for women’s rugby at home.”