THIS TIME TWO weeks ago, there was a serious conversation ongoing surrounding Ireland women’s rugby.
Hannah Tyrrell. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
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Leading the Six Nations after two bonus-point wins in their two opening games, there was speculation that three key players were set to be pulled from the squad to go on sevens duty.
The news was then confirmed through the squad announcement on the Thursday afternoon. Director of Women’s and Sevens rugby Anthony Eddy had made the decision to withdraw Hannah Tyrrell, Sene Naoupu and Alison Miller from the 15-a-side squad, and they were named to travel to Las Vegas for the World Sevens Series.
In the middle of a Six Nations campaign and preparing for a home World Cup, the IRFU came under fire for their decision.
The way that things were done, in the run up to an all-important Six Nations home clash against France on the Sunday meant that the criticism came thick and fast.
It wasn’t exactly ideal preparation for a big match — the increased attention and of course, the loss of some of their key backline talent — but Ireland did their talking on the pitch.
They produced a gritty performance in Donnybrook to secure their third win on the bounce, and keep their Grand Slam chances well and truly alive.
Meanwhile in Vegas, the sevens side put in a good shift too. They equaled their best-ever performance in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series with an eighth place finish.
Two fine jobs done, regardless of the turbulence throughout the previous week.
And now, we go again.
The ‘Vegas Three’ are all available to head coach Tom Tierney ahead of this weekend’s Six Nations test, and slot right back into the starting XV to face Wales.
Tyrrell scored a try in Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO
She found herself unintentionally caught in the crossfire, but Hannah Tyrrell admits that she wasn’t too phased by the whole situation.
“Look, I’m just happy to be able to play either code. I love playing sevens, I love playing fifteens, and just being able to represent my country in either code is fantastic.
“We’re on the World Series and we’re trying to qualify for the Sevens World Cup next year, and stay on the World Series for next year so it was a really important event for us.
“The girls understand the position that we’re in, and they realise that we’re contracted sevens players and that we have a job to do with sevens.
“They did fantastically against France while we were away. Me and the other two girls [Naoupu and Miller] are very proud of them, and we’re just looking to get stuck back in this weekend and help in any way that we can in getting the win.”
The Dubliner is straight back into the thick of the action, starting on the wing.
When asked about chopping and changing between the codes, it’s clear that she takes it all in her stride.
“The game is different in some ways, but then again, it’s still rugby at the end of the day. It’s just about making sure when I come back to fifteens that I know the set-piece move, and positioning wise and stuff like that. I find it really easy so I’m very lucky in that regard.
“We’ve been in fifteens camps before with Six Nations. I was involved in the Italy game, so it’s just about again practicing positioning and making sure you know the set-pieces, it comes a bit naturally from there really.”
Tyrrell, who actually scored a last-gasp try to secure a bonus point in that Italy fixture, believes that the player base is wide enough to cater for movement between the two camps:
“Obviously, we’d love to have more players registered, and more players to be able to pick from at the minute.
With the switching between the two codes comes a slight sense of disjointedness though. Many have argued that the fact that players don’t know were they stand is unfavourable, particularly in a World Cup year.
It doesn’t seem to bother Tyrell a whole pile though. One step at a time is the general consensus. She’s dismissing any squad speculation down the line as of yet and focusing on her own game.
I love playing sevens, I love playing fifteens, and just being able to represent my country in either code is fantastic.’ Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
“Nobody’s place is guaranteed really when it comes to any Six Nations squad or World Cup squad. There’s a good few months in the summer — anything could change, injuries happen, you can be in and out of form.
“It’s really relatively unknown. I’m just hoping that I can put in some performances and catch Tom’s eye. And hopefully make the World Cup squad come August
The hype and amount of media attention following the IRFU’s decision to withdraw the trio came as a surprise to the 26-year-old, but she insists that all press is good press.
“We weren’t really expecting that much media from it, but again, myself and the two girls, we really just put our heads down and got on with the task ahead. We didn’t really pay too much attention to it.
For the moment though, it’s not about what’s happened over the past few weeks or what’s coming in the future. It’s about now. It’s about the present.
And the present is Wales on Saturday. The present is building on their Six Nations campaign, remaining unbeaten and giving themselves the best possible chance as we enter the business end of the tournament.
“We’re unbeaten at the minute, three from three. We’ve a big tough test against a Welsh side away from home this weekend. We’re just looking to go out and get the win and we’ll focus on the last game against England next week. It’s really good preparation for the World Cup.”
But of course, the World Cup is just a distant thought for Tyrrell. It’s a few steps away yet.
Back to Wales.
“We know they’re going to be a tough side. Them being at home, they’ve nothing really to lose going against us. We played them in a warm-up friendly just before the Six Nations started a couple of weeks ago and they beat us.
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