Ireland captain Ciara Griffin will lead her team into the 2018 Women’s Six Nations determined that her team will shed the baggage of last year’s disappointing World Cup campaign and face firmly into the future, writes Simon Lewis of the Irish Examiner.
The Munster and UL Bohemian back rower will start at No.8 on Saturday night when Ireland face a tough opening game against France in Toulouse’s Stade Ernest Wallon.
It will be 24-year-old Griffin’s debut as national team captain and Ireland’s first game since their 2017 World Cup campaign ended with a defeat by Wales in the play-off for 7th and 8th places.
France had denied the hosts top spot in their pool with a 21-5 defeat at the UCD Bowl — the poor home showing cost head coach Tom Tierney his post, prompted widespread criticism from several players, and led to an IRFU review of the women’s game that is set to be published before the summer.
In Griffin’s words, the rebuilding starts this weekend with new head coach Adam Griggs naming a side featuring Ireland sevens player Megan Williams on the wing for her international 15s debut.
The captain said it was time to “draw a line in the sand” and move on from the World Cup, adding that there is no hangover from the tournament in August.
“Being honest, we’re focused on rugby. Some players may have been vocal since but for us as a playing group, we’re quite a solid unit,” said Griffin.
“There’s a really good team spirit and an ethos of hard work and we’re looking out for one another. So it’s quite positive at the moment, we’re looking forward, not looking back at the World Cup. We can’t change the past so it’s about focusing on the next step, which is the Six Nations.
“(The World Cup) was a disappointment, that’s obvious, it’s been said, but we have to move forward, keep building. It’s a new phase, a new building era for the women’s game in Ireland and I think we should just draw a line in the sand and keep moving forward. If we look at the bigger picture it’s about developing, so keep developing and getting competitive.”
Griffin said the mood in the Irish camp was extremely positive.
“It’s really exciting. There’s new girls coming in and they’re doing really well and it’s nice, there’s a good buzz around so I’m looking forward to it.
“We’re looking to improve on our previous performances and try new things, get more experience and get the confidence up. You want to be competitive and that’s what we’re aiming to do. That’s exciting.
“You never know what you’re going to get with France. You have to prepare for all possibilities.”
Head coach Griggs shares Griffin’s enthusiasm and positivity.
“I suppose after a bit of a disappointing World Cup it’s always good to freshen things up and that’s certainly my mindset going in,” said the former Leinster women’s coach.
“It’s a new start and a new era for myself but also for the playing group as well.
“It adds motivation for us to do well in this Six Nations.”