Ireland Women begin their World Cup warm up matches with a trip to Spain next weekend (5th July) and follow that match up with a game against Wales in Malahide two weeks later (19th July).
The extended squad are currently in their third World Cup camp and as part of our ongoing series of articles leading up to the competition I caught up with Ireland Women’s Attack Coach, Greg McWilliams, who has recently returned to the Women’s management team having previously been involved during the “Grand Slam” Six Nations in 2012.
FRU: It’s your second stint with Ireland Women, any changes since last time round?
GMcW: Some things stay constant, which is good, but I think that the management team and the players have looked at how they go about their business and have set themselves higher standards as to how they want to play their game . It makes our job as coaches very interesting as we are always looking at ways to challenge the players and develop and expand their skill-set.
FRU: The girls are looking very sharp and have put a bit more pace on the ball in their passing, is this something you’re trying to develop?
GMcW: I think, importantly, that rugby is a simple game sometimes made difficult by coaches! So by placing a lot more emphasis on the skill base that a player has in terms of their distribution, their decision making, their alignment, how they approach the gain line, how they can play behind the back and by really focusing on these areas means that when they get into a game situation they are producing more clinical work.
Certainly I want us to be the best passing team of the World Cup and that’s my main goal. I believe if we if we are the best passing team then we will have a great chance of competing with the best in the world.
I think over the last four years we have developed to a point where we play a good tactical game with good game management and we’ve got strong leadership within the group. I just think that if we can get sharper with our hands and develop our work and pace on the ball then we are going to open up more defences and that’s our main target.
Previous Head to Heads.
FRU: Have you been doing much research on the teams in your pool for the World Cup (USA, Kazakhstan, New Zealand)?
GMcW: It would be remiss of me not to mention that whenever New Zealand, the USA or Kazakhstan are in the media that I would try and get my hands on the games and review it.
One thing I’ve noticed is stereotypical, in that coaches will review teams as a group. The USA, in particular, play a strong, fast brand of rugby. They have developed a lot since 2010, as have New Zealand and Kazakhstan. Id like to think that we have developed quite a bit too.
The game has grown and women are playing with more pace in the game so the closer you get to the World Cup the tighter you hone in on the menu of plays that you are going to go with in attack and the more you watch opposition players but at the moment we’ve got to get our structures in place and all our systems in place and we are just continuously working towards that.
FRU: Is there any team you are particularly worried about?
GMcW: Honestly, I’m only worrying about ourselves at the moment. I want to get us right and I want to concentrate on that all the way up to the World Cup. I think if you look too much at the opposition about what patch you are following.
There’s the reason there is a box, and I think for us, as a management team and players, that we should concentrate on what’s inside the box and get really good at it as opposed to finding innovative new ways outside the box!
We just need to make sure that we improve on what we do and worry about the opposition team by team, game by game, when we get to the World Cup.