It has taken a while but the Ireland women’s team now have the respect of World Cup semi-final opponents England, according to head coach Philip Doyle.
Having topped a group including four-time winners New Zealand, Ireland face the old enemy on Wednesday (1700, live on RTÉ’s 2fm) at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris.
Gary Street’s side will go into the game as favourites having beaten Ireland 17-10 in this year’s Six Nations championship.
But Doyle, who masterminded the 2013 Grand Slam and the historic group stage win over New Zealand, says that recognition for his team’s achievements was slow to arrive from the Red Rose.
“It’s taken a couple of years [for them] to respect us but they know now that we’re a very good team. I have absolutely no doubt that Gary Street is going to put out his strongest side ‘cos the English do respect the Irish game now,” Doyle told RTÉ Sport.
“We don’t really care what he puts out on the pitch because we’re still going to beat them.”
“We don’t really care what he [England coach Gary Street] puts out on the pitch because we’re still going to beat them” - Philip Doyle
Ireland have reverted to the same team that beat the Black Ferns meaning ten changes to the side which defeated Kazakhstan in the final pool game.
Doyle, who will step down after the tournament from the role he first took over in 2003, added that they have done their homework and is steadfast in his belief in their preparation.
“We’ve analysed England, we’ve identified their weaknesses and we are now tactically putting that into place in our training sessions and into our theory sessions,” he said.
“We’ve been quietly going about our business, keeping everything nice and low key, working our butts off for a long, long time and the girls have just been exemplary in their preparations for this World Cup and it’s just coming to fruition now. Let’s just hope we still have a little more in the tank.
“We targeted the semi-final as a team goal. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“We were delighted with our great win over the Blacks, thoroughly deserved, I thought. It’s a credit to the management and the players that we put this goal in place. No-one knew about it except for ourselves and we’ve come good.”
For England, defeat in the previous three World Cup finals, all to New Zealand, gives them an extra incentive to reach another decider, against either France or Canada.
Captain Katy McLean, however, was keen to play down the favourites tag ahead of the clash, keenly aware of the magnitude of Ireland’s win over the perennial champions.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play against New Zealand numerous times and they are a fantastic side and it just goes to show how good Ireland were on the day,” said the out-half.
“For our team it’s going to be all about us. We can’t get drawn into favourites and not being favourites - it’s all about the rugby and that’s where we are now.”