Friday, May 24, 2024

‘We’ve come through so much’ – Ireland revel in World Cup qualification

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Brittany Hogan has confirmed that she had no idea Ireland had qualified for next year’s World Cup in England until after the final whistle in their dramatic 15-12 win over Scotland in the Kingspan Stadium.

The player of the match revealed that head coach Scott Bemand had not informed her and other players of Wales’ earlier 22-20 win over Italy in Cardiff. That result meant Italy could not overtake Scotland in third place and so secure automatic qualification for next year’s expanded, 16-team World Cup in England, instead ensuring that the Ireland-Scotland game amounted to a straight shoot-out.

“It means so much,” she said. “We came out for a performance today. We didn’t know what was going to happen after the end of it if we qualified or not but we just wanted to do it together.

“I’m just so proud. I literally heard before I came over here that we’ve qualified and I’m just so happy.

“We’ve come through so much as a group and every single one of us – management, players, people who aren’t here today and all our supporters – everyone means everything.”

Ireland were a team transformed after the interval, at which point they trailed 5-0, and although the lineout continued to wobble they drastically reduced the handling errors that had undermined them in a rain-drenched first half.

Asked what he said to the team at half-time, Bemand laughed and said: “Where’s the points from all the pressure that you’ve had? They’re a bit of a mental battle, aren’t they, games like this and we put ourselves under a bit of pressure early doors. The girls were great in terms of working their way through that. We had 15 minutes and it was all ‘Ireland, Ireland, Ireland’ but no points.

“So, we just got back to the changing room and said: ‘Look, there’s no panic. We’re putting ourselves in positions and we identified a couple of things we could do, and then we came out pretty swiftly after half-time and executed that and started putting points on the board,” said Bemand in reference to the well-worked try finished off by 18-year-old Katie Corrigan a minute into the second half.

“Scotland are a very good team and they’re never going to make it easy but I think the girls managed to come through that first half, when it could have rattled them, and they got back on the front foot, and I think what we’re seeing here now is a group that’s full of charisma and resilience. So when the games are going against you, you can find a way to win.”

Captain Sam Monaghan admitted: “I’m speechless. I think we all left it out there.

“We had a very heavy defeat last week and I think that built the fuel for the fire. It was never going to be a straight run in this Six Nations.

“But I’m very proud. We said it at half-time [that] we’ve every belief that we can win this game and it takes a mentality like that to go forward for a World Cup.”

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