12 CAPTAINS CONVERGED in London three weeks ago as the Men’s and Women’s Six Nations drew near.
For Irish captain Fiona Coghlan, a teacher by trade, the trip was a break from the norm and she had new company – Jamie Heaslip.
Coghlan told TheScore.ie, “I was there before with Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell but Jamie and I had a good laugh.
“He’s very easy-going and confident but he’s a different sort of player out on the pitch; very committed.”
Coghlan added, “Jamie is very lucky that he has a lot of leaders in the dressing room. It is the same for me and it makes my job easier.”
The loosehead prop took over the captaincy from Sarah-Jane Belton in 2008 and has been in the role permanently since 2010.
Last season, Ireland took on England at Esher with an outside chance of claiming the Six Nations championship. The English, with a raft of professional players in their squad, were held at bay until late in the second-half. Coghlan commented:
We stayed with England for 60 minutes but their bench came on and changed the game.”
The Ireland Women will have the opportunity to avenge that loss when they take on England from 2pm at Ashbourne RFC.
Ireland kicked off their 2013 championship tilt with a hard-fought 12-10 win away to Wales but Coghlan is conscious that a huge improvement will be needed to overcome the reigning champions.
She said, “We’re complete underdogs but we always seem to raise our game against them.
Playing against the best in the world, and trying to match them, is our motivation. We’ve come on leaps and bounds in recent years and we’re over moral victories. We want to beat the best.”
The major disadvantage of not being in a professional, or semi-professional, Irish set-up is the fact that the team do not meet up for training until tomorrow evening. They will get, according to the captain, ’40 minutes to put things right’.
The IRFU’s better-late-than-never commitment to Women’s Sevens is a welcome boost to the team and means many of the full squad can work on the stealth and skills that make the format such a thrilling spectacle.
With rankings points going towards World Cup qualification in 2014, Coghlan is hoping to conquer the English on Saturday.
She said, “Our results last year put us in a good position behind England and France, who have already qualified. However, Italy beat France at the weekend and threw the whole thing wide open again.”