We have a look back at the Ireland Women Sevens side and their participation in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series and the European Grand Prix. The squad would have approached the season with two stated aims:

  • Maintain their status in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series
  • Qualify for the  2018 Sevens Rugby World Cup

Ireland Women Sevens World Series

The final standings for the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series is shown below and on the face of it it’s a definite improvement for Ireland Women who finished in 9th place this season, compared to 12th place and re-qualification last season.

POS  TEAM DUBAI SYDNEY LAS VEGAS KITAKYUSHU LANGFORD CLERMONT PTS
1 NEW ZEALAND 20 16 20 20 20 20 116
2 AUSTRALIA  18 14 18 16 16 18 100
3 CANADA  10 20 16 18 18 16 98
4 FIJI  12 12 12 14 4 12 66
5 RUSSIA  16 8 10 12 12 8 66
6 USA  2 18 14 8 10 10 62
7 FRANCE  8 10 8 6 14 14 60
8 ENGLAND  14 3 3 10 6 1 37
9 IRELAND  4 6 6 4 8 6 34
10 SPAIN  3 2 4 3 3 4 19
11 BRAZIL  1 4 2 2 2 2 13
12 SOUTH AFRICA  6 6
13 JAPAN 1 3 4
14 PAPUA NEW GUINEA  1 1
15 NETHERLANDS  1 1
16 ARGENTINA 1 1

 

Looking at the season’s statistics the improvement is verified in the head to heads with a few more matches in the win column.

team pl w d l pf pa
New Zealand 2 0 0 2 10 53
France 4 0 0 4 43 79
Fiji 5 2 1 2 60 119
USA 6 2 0 4 90 106
Spain 4 3 1 0 75 33
Australia 3 0 0 3 0 86
Brazil 3 2 0 1 67 37
Russia 4 0 0 4 31 73
England 1 1 0 0 14 10
Japan 1 1 0 0 26 5
Canada 1 0 0 1 0 31
 total 34 11 2 21 416 632
 % games played 100% 32.4% 5.9% 61.8%

 

The win ratio comes in at just over 32% which a considerable improvement on last season’s ratio of 24%. Add in the two drawn matches, against Fiji and Spain, and the effective win ratio is pushed to up around 35%.

All in all it appears to be moving in the right direction but a degree of caution is advised. This has been a season where the “big players” have chosen to concentrate on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup and this did lessen the quality of the squads, particularly in the later rounds. Ireland did adjust their side as well, but not to the same extent as other sides.

Ireland Women Sevens Individual Performances.

Ireland increased their squad depth this season with, I believe, five new caps, including Ulster’s Claire Boles. This resulted in 21 players being used throughout the season and, a good positive sign, the scoring was spread much deeper throughout the squad. Seventeen of this season’s players made a scoring contribution compared to ten last season.

player   squads try con pts
Murphy Crowe Amee Leigh 34 21 0 105
Mulhall Lucy 28 3 30 75
Flood Stacey 34 11 0 55
Williams Megan 28 10 0 50
Flood Kim 28 0 10 20
Naoupu Sene 17 3 0 15
Millar Alison 11 3 0 15
Tyrrell Hannah 34 2 0 10
O’Flynn Audrey 22 2 0 10
Fitzhenry Katie 17 2 0 10
Galvin Louise 17 2 0 10
Heffernan Katie 12 2 0 10
Doyle Aoife 5 2 0 10
Keohane Claire 23 0 3 6
Baxter Ashleigh 28 1 0 5
Boles Claire 6 1 0 5
Cronin Nicole 4 1 0 5
Blackmore Chloe 18 0 0 0
Murphy Emma 16 0 0 0
Vaughan Susan 12 0 0 0
McGann Anna 6 0 0 0
Byrne Niamh 6 0 0 0
totals   34 66 43 416

 

Again, we need to exercise a degree of caution when interpreting the above figures. Ireland played nine more games this series but, even with that, the stats do stack up favourably.

Looking at it on a per game basis, tries per game have increased from 1.52 to 1.94 and conversions per try have increased from 0.55 to 0.65. This has resulted in points per game increasing from 9.4  to 12.2 – so all good.

Perhaps the most noticeable improvement has been, as I said earlier, the sharing of the scoring amongst the squad. Last season Lucy Mulhall was the chief scorer, her 9 tries and 22 conversions seeing her we’ll clear of the next highest contributor, Amee Leigh Murphy-Crowe. This season Mulhall and Murphy-Crowe, the latter with an impressive 21 tries, are still up there but Stacey Flood and Megan Williams have upped their contribution by some margin, both getting to and beyond the 50 point mark.

With this in mind, last year we were only celebrating the achievements of Mulhall who kept the scores ticking over largely on her own. This season we have picked out Murphy-Crowe, Mulhall, Stacey Flood and Williams as the players who have impressed us the most. Stacey Flood and Williams are starting to look like leaders on the pitch.

The FRU Ireland Women Sevens Players of the Series.

Ireland Women Sevens, Amee Murphy-Crowe, Lucy Mulhall, Stacey Flood, Megan Williams

The Front Row Union Ireland Players of the Series

With relegation from the World Series successfully avoided the squad went into the European Grand Prix with some confidence. The aim here was to qualify for the 2018 Sevens Rugby World Cup.

Ireland Women Sevens European Grand Prix.

On paper Ireland Women Sevens shouldn’t have had a real problem with qualifying for the World Cup through this route and that’s how it turned out.

The gulf in class between the World Series core teams and the others ensured that quite a few of the games were a foregone conclusions with only England, Russia, Spain and France providing quality opposition. Even there, with Spain, Russia and France already qualified for the World Cup, the “competition within the competition” was to finish either in the top three or above England or Wales. (Wales were impressively competitive despite limited game time prior to the competition.)

As it was, with nine wins out of the twelve matches, Ireland qualified in second place, level with England and France, and behind Russia. Ireland and England qualifying for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens alongside the previously qualified Russia, Spain and France. Boy oh boy they really do have a convoluted qualification process!

The head to heads results for Ireland Women Sevens in the 2017 European Grand Prix are shown below.

team pl w d l pf pa
Italy 1 1 0 0 22 7
Portugal 2 2 0 0 96 14
England 3 2 0 1 67 40
Spain 1 1 0 0 15 0
France 2 1 0 1 47 14
Poland 1 1 0 0 17 7
Sweden 1 1 0 0 48 0
Russia 1 0 0 1 5 27
total 12 9 0 3 317 109
 % games played 100% 75% 0% 25%

Unfortunately we don’t have any individual player stats for the European Grand Prix.

The 75% win ration is impressive and is a marked improvement from 54% last season in this European competition.

It has to be regarded as a successful season with both of the squad’s key aims met. It has been a season of consolidation in the top flight and there has been a reasonable progression of new talent into the squad.

However, it’s been a largely unfocused season for most teams, as the 2017 World Rugby Women’s World Cup looms into view, and this years progression has to be built on next season.

As a useful guide, Russia still appear to be their nemesis, and they must be the team that Ireland aspire to consistently beat next season.

 

Do you agree or disagree? We'd love to read your comments.