Ciara Griffin’s column: ‘Belfast’s unknown setup could benefit Ireland against Scotland’

Ciara Griffin

Local: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Date: Saturday, April 30 Beginning: 20:00 BST
Roof: Watch on BBC Two NI and BBC iPlayer; follow live text commentary on BBC Sport website

It’s great to see the Six Nations finally making it to Belfast as Ireland look to end a difficult campaign with a victory over Scotland.

Having the game at Kingspan Stadium will be a great showcase for women’s rugby and will give fans unable to attend games in Dublin the chance to watch Ireland on their doorstep.

Moving Ireland’s home games was a success. There was a record crowd at Musgrave Park for the victory over Italy and high numbers in the RDS for the defeat to Wales, so hopefully we’ll see big numbers in Belfast to show the game’s growth and that Irish rugby isn’t limited to Dublin.

I’ve always loved Kingspan. I played there four times, twice with Ireland and twice with Munster, and I think it’s a fantastic stadium. It always produces a great atmosphere, it’s like the stadium picks up the noise no matter how many are there. It echoes around you.

I hope there will be strong participation from the team because they deserve it. They put their heart and soul into this campaign, so it’s important that people support them.

The team can also benefit from a change. It’s nice to see different stadiums, it can change the routine, because if you’re in the same stadium all the time, it can get monotonous in the construction, so a change in scenery can work in your favor.

Scotland is Ireland’s last home game for some time and it’s a new venue. Ireland will want to correct some of the mistakes of England’s defeat and console themselves before returning to club rugby.

Scotland will be suffering, though, and beating them will be no easy task. They will have been frustrated with their performance against Italy, letting the half-time advantage slip to lose in Parma, but they have plenty of experienced players and will be excited to get a win before they begin preparations for the World Cup.

Result is not a fair reflection of Ireland’s effort

It might seem strange given the 69-0 scoreline, but Ireland can definitely take positive points from England’s defeat.

The game was an illustration of England’s power and skill level as the Red Roses marched to their 22nd straight victory.

Ireland will be disappointed with the result, but this does not reflect their overall effort.

It would always be a great request, but Ireland did very well in the first half. They kept England at 10-0 and that is quite positive because few teams have done that.

Ireland really attacked this collapse. Edel McMahon was important in that game with his work on the collapse and his work on the defensive, really slowing down that English offensive ruck.

England had the fastest ruck speed of any team in the tournament going into the game, but Ireland forced England to recruit more players and that gave Ireland time to set their lineup.

You can see it frustrated England and forced them into unforced errors within the Irish 22 that we hadn’t previously seen from Simon Middleton’s team.

The absence of the sevens was obviously very disappointing. It’s unfair to the players because you have players who have been at camp for 10 weeks and haven’t had a lot of playing time in the first few rounds and then all of a sudden they’re thrown into the frying pan against England.

This is not a pick and mix. Six Nations is one of the most coveted competitions to play. I’ve always liked it and I hope we stop discounting Six Nations because you want your best playing in this tournament.

Time for action on the issue of sevens

Beibhinn Parsons, Stacey Flood and Eve Higgins
Beibhinn Parsons, Stacey Flood and Eve Higgins were three of the players unavailable for the trip from Ireland to England because of seven engagements.

At the end of the day, Ireland is an amateur team that had players withdrawn midway through the tournament.

As for England, they are a team their union has invested in. They are clearly reaping the rewards because they are undefeated in 22 games, head to the Grand Slam on Saturday and will be one of the favorites to win the World Cup in September.

This all shows the benefit of the investment. England had a similar situation in 2015 when the RFU took a lot of sevens players from the 15s team and they had one of their most disappointing campaigns but decided to focus on the 15s and hopefully the IRFU will do that.

They’ve had positive conversations, but we need to see action, because there’s nothing worse than throwing your heart out while fighting obstacles that are beyond your control.

It was, however, encouraging to hear United Rugby Championship Chief Executive Martin Anayi say that there is a “will” to establish a women’s competition.

It’s brilliant to hear that they see a female URC as a viable option. Women’s rugby is the fastest growing game, so it makes sense to invest in it. I hope they back up their words and put pen to paper because women’s rugby is fast paced and exciting.

I have always believed that the interprovincial series is not used to its full potential in Ireland. It’s three or five games once a year, so if you had a more competitive structure throughout the year it would help grow the game here and create a bright future for Ireland.

Ciara Griffin was talking to BBC Sport’s Matt Gault.

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