By Padraic Ryan at the Stade Jean Bouin
A shattered Niamh Briggs and Gillian Bourke conceded that Ireland failed to live up to their potential and really “made life difficult” for themselves in their crushing 40-7 World Cup semi-final defeat to England in Paris yesterday.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport after the game, full-back Briggs said that Ireland “definitely didn’t perform to our potential, and that’s probably the most gutting thing. We really didn’t step up the mark where it needed to be.”
Ireland got off to a dream start, scoring the game’s opening try after 16 minutes, but struggled to contain the English pressure thereafter.
“We had a great start, put them under a lot of pressure, and then we made too many mistakes,” Briggs said. “And against a good side like England, they’re always going to punish you.”
Asked whether England had forced Ireland to make the mistakes, Briggs said it was more a case of “uncharacteristic errors on our behalf”.
She added: “You have to give England their credit, they’re a good side, but it definitely wasn’t where we wanted to be.”
Briggs, who had a bittersweet day after earlier being nominated as IRB women’s player of the year, said Ireland had made things tough for themselves by affording strong English runners like Emily Scarratt too much time and space on the ball.
"We put ourselves under pressure at times by not closing down the space earlier inside" - Niamh Briggs
“When you’re trying to defend so much space... we put ourselves under pressure at times by not closing down the space earlier inside,” she said. “We made life difficult for ourselves.”
Irish hooker Bourke felt that Ireland had failed to push on from their early score.
“We should have had a try off the first maul,” Bourke said. “And then, obviously, we built the phases and got the score.
“I think our problem was we left them straight back into it. We really needed to build a few more phases and keep possession.
“After the first 20 minutes, when we started losing possession, we really were in a bit of a dogfight.
"There’s not much you can do when people are trying their hardest, and the width of [England’s] passing and the speed of their passing just kept catching us out wide.
“They kept gaining ground off their back-line plays, and we were on the back-foot for quite a lot of the game.”