Bring the noise: Ireland women’s rugby team prepare for encounter with France

‘We know it will be raucous … hopefully, we can make it work if we fire some shots and quiet that crowd,’ says head coach

Ahead of their opening game in this year’s Six Nations championship against France at Stade Marie-Marvingt on Saturday, the Ireland women’s rugby team have been doing their utmost to prepare themselves for what is expected to be a raucous atmosphere in the Le Mans venue.

With a sizeable crowd expected to descend upon a ground that is primarily used by French third-tier football outfit Le Mans FC, Ireland head coach Scott Bemand conducted some noise training with his troops at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre in Abbotstown last week.

While some current members of the squad have played in front of big crowds before — co-captains Edel McMahon and Sam Monaghan were in the starting line-up when Ireland played against France in front of 12,000 spectators at Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse during the 2022 Six Nations — there are others for whom Saturday’s game could prove to be a new and unique experience.

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“Some people have played in front of a big crowd, noisy crowd. Some haven’t, to be fair,” said Bemand at Tuesday’s press conference in Abbotstown. “We’ve potentially got some youngsters that we’re going to have a look at. Simple things like lineout calls and actually when you’re down in the middle and you can’t hear what’s going on, you need to find other ways of communicating.


“We know it will be raucous, we know there will be music, we know there will be a great crowd. Hopefully, we can make it work if we fire some shots and quiet that crowd, but we’ve got to anticipate there is going to be times when they’re going to be noisy and we’ve got to know how to deal with it.”

After not being involved in the 2023 edition of the Six Nations — when Bemand’s predecessor Greg McWilliams was at the helm — due to their commitments to the Ireland Sevens, Eve Higgins, Béibhinn Parsons and Aoibheann Reilly were all part of the 15s set-up for last year’s success at the inaugural WXV 3 in Dubai.

Higgins and Parsons made their presence felt in the latter tournament’s opener against Kazakhstan, registering four tries apiece as Ireland cruised to a record-breaking 109-0 victory. Parsons also grabbed a brace of tries in their second-round win over Colombia, before being joined on the pitch by Higgins and Reilly as Ireland sealed the WXV 3 trophy with a narrow triumph against Spain on October 28th.

This triumvirate are also part of Bemand’s plans for this year’s Six Nations, while another pair of Ireland Sevens stars — Claire Boles and Katie Heffernan — were also named in his 35-strong player pool for the championship when it was unveiled last month.

Given Ireland are targeting a top-three finish in the 2024 Six Nations — which, by extension, would guarantee them a spot at next year’s Rugby World Cup finals in England — it would be a massive boost to Bemand and his coaching staff to have this quintet at his disposal for the entire duration of the tournament.

The former England women’s lead coach confirmed on Tuesday that they are available for selection this weekend at the very least. And with a strong line of communication existing between himself and his Sevens counterpart Allan Temple-Jones, he believes the IRFU’s two women’s rugby programmes can continue to complement each other in the weeks, months and years to come.

“We’ve got a great working relationship with Allan Temple-Jones in the Sevens programme. We’ll get some support from the Sevens and we will offer some support back. It will be a two-way relationship and will be ongoing from here,” added Bemand.

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