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Aoife Wafer: Ireland wanted to 'right wrongs' against Wales

By Martyn Thomas
Cork , Ireland - 13 April 2024; Aoife Wafer of Ireland is tackled by Sian Jones during the Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Wales at Virgin Media Park in Cork. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Aoife Wafer says her team-mates were driven to perform against Wales by a desire to “show everyone who Ireland is and who we are”.

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Ireland went into Saturday’s match on a run of seven Guinness Women’s Six Nations matches without a win but raced into a 21-0 lead within 26 minutes in Cork and ultimately saw out an impressive 36-5 victory.

It was a far cry from their previous outing, a 27-21 defeat to Italy in Dublin a fortnight ago, and flanker Wafer – at the heart of much of what Scott Bemand’s side did well at Musgrave Park – revealed the players were motivated to make up for that result.

“We spoke all week about what our targets were and what our goals were going into this game,” player of the match Wafer said.

“We were quite disappointed with our performance against Italy, we knew we had them in a lot of opportunities and we wanted to come out and right those wrongs and show everyone who Ireland is and who we are.

Fixture
Womens Six Nations
Ireland Women's
36 - 5
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Wales Women's
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“There are some really big positives from this game. There is also some stuff that we can take and really target in training.

“I’m sure our coaches have some sort of plan for us to go out and target England and for us to do a job [at Twickenham next Saturday]. We’ll have our goals and if we hit those we’ll be in a good spot.”

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Wafer scored the opening try of the match in Cork and played a crucial role in two of the other four during what was an impressive showing.

Following the match, which reignites Ireland’s hopes of finishing in the top three and securing WXV 1 and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 qualification, she lauded the spirit and competition for places that are building within Bemand’s squad.

“We believe in each other and we know that whoever is picked in that 15, that they can go out and do the job,” she added. “But more importantly, we know that anyone who’s finishing the game can come on and lift that energy.

“Then we also have our family of players at home, and they drive standards beyond any I’ve seen before. To have 35 or so players who are just driving standards and pushing each other, you know that then whoever gets the jersey deserves it.

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“We’ve done huge work on our culture and we trust each other.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Edel McMahon in the wake of victory, the co-captain also revealing that the squad had undertaken an “honest reflection” of the handling errors that marred their defeat to Italy last month.

McMahon said: “When we played France, we looked at some of the defensive things we did really well and where we put ourselves on the pitch and put that in going into Italy.

“We’re playing in the right areas, we’re creating opportunities and then layering that on, just being honest with ourselves about where we could be better.

“That’s why we’re starting to get more competition within places, we’re getting more clarity, and clarity breeds confidence, and we saw quite a lot of that today.”

Victory in Cork lifted Ireland, who won WXV 3 in Bemand’s first campaign as coach, up to third in the standings with matches against England at Twickenham and Scotland at Kingspan Stadium to come.

McMahon praised Bemand for the impact he has had on the squad since arriving last summer.

“As a squad, we’re a lot more cohesive. It’s not just one to 23, whether you’re involved one week or you’re not involved the next, there’s quite a lot of clarity amongst the squad,” she said.

“There’s a two-way leadership in that players have a say in how we feel in how we want to attack and defend and that’s a working relationship with staff and players.

“[Bemand] is breeding confidence within the group. More people are being leaders, and I think that’s why we’re starting to piece together confidence on the pitch.”

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