‘She’s got things she can still work on’ – Griggs on omission of former Ireland captain for Italy clash

IRELAND HEAD COACH Adam Griggs has explained the omission of former captain Claire Molloy from the matchday squad that will face Italy on Saturday, saying that she has “things she can still work on.”

Claire Molloy in action against Italy last year. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Molloy, who has over 70 caps for Ireland and is the last link to the 2013 Grand Slam-winning side, started the first two games of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign against Wales and France.

However, she has been left out of the matchday 23 for their final game of the tournament where a third-place finish is the prize on offer for the victors.

Brittany Hogan has been handed the seven jersey in Molloy’s place as one of three changes to the side that suffered a 41-point defeat to France last week. Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe is also a new addition to the starting-15 on the wing, while Stacey Flood replaces Hannah Tyrrell at out-half.

“We had a conversation with Claire earlier on in the week around some of the performances,” Griggs began while speaking to the media about Molloy’s absence from the squad.

“She’s got things that she can still work on at the moment and around those players coming into the starting side, I suppose, the last six months, we’ve talked about the depth of this side and building competition.

“I wouldn’t be true to my word if we weren’t giving some of these other players a shot. Certainly, when you at Stacey, I think she’s come on and made a real difference for us in the last two games. In that 10 position throughout the week, it’s really important that you take control and ownership of how the team is steered.

“Hannah’s had that opportunity the last couple of weeks and this week we thought it was a good time to see how Stacey goes leading the team. The same thing with Brittany.

“She’s been really good coming off the bench as well in her two performances. We see her as kind of a hybrid that can cover that second row but also her future is probably as a back-rower. She’s very dynamic, good ball carrier and really solid at the breakdown.

“It’s about giving these players an opportunity to start and perform themselves.”

Italy captain Manuela Furlan [file photo]. Source: Massimiliano Carnabuci

Ireland’s final game of the Six Nations will be played at Energia Park in Donnybrook after Italy agreed to give up home advantage to ensure the game could go ahead.

The third/fourth place playoff was originally set for Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma this weekend but was moved to Dublin due to Covid-19 quarantine requirements.

“We’ve been adaptable for the last six months but I won’t lie, we were all a bit on edge just until it was finally confirmed for us,” Griggs said after the fixture details were finally confirmed yesterday.

“Again, we don’t want to have last week as our last performance. We want to make sure we can go out this week and rectify some of the mistakes we made and really finish off in a strong way.”

Italy will present another difficult contest for Griggs’ side on Saturday afternoon [kick-off, 12pm]. The sides met at the same venue in October last year, with Ireland registering an impressive win.

But they come into this tie on the back of a big win over Scotland, where captain Manuela Furlan terrorised the Scots on the wing and ran in three tries.

After suffering a huge defeat last week, Griggs says it’s crucial that Ireland end the campaign with a positive result and secure a third-place finish. There’s also the added incentive of gaining an advantage on Italy before they meet in the World Cup qualifiers.

“I think it’d be a huge confidence boost for us,” says Griggs. “We’re licking our wounds a little bit from last week but we’re turning the page now and we’re moving into this week.

“We know they will be an opponent for us in those qualifiers so it’s about laying down a marker and again, it’s more our internal standards and what we’ve got as targets this week that we need to make sure we hit.

“If we can come off and look each other in the eye, and know that we did that, I’m sure the scoreboard will reflect that.”