Ireland lost their opening Six Nations game against Wales on Saturday, but it wasn't all doom and gloom.
Wales have recently turned professional in women's rugby.
And yet, Ireland will feel they let the game go at the weekend. The transition to professional rugby is not yet impacting the Welsh team the way it has the English team. It will take a couple of years before they benefit fully from professionalism. So even though Ireland put out an inexperienced team against Wales, they will have expected to win.
They definitely expected to win after taking a commanding lead in the game. A late collapse allowed Wales to score 17 unanswered points. The game finished 27-19 in demoralizing fashion.
New manager Greg McWilliams was obviously frustrated after the game, but there were some notable positive performances from two young backs. Aoibheann Reilly made her debut at scrum half. Reilly is just 21 years of age and impressed former Ireland international Alison Miller.
"She had a solid debut," Miller said.
"It's not easy to go out there on your first game and play well, but I thought she had a good relationship with Nicole [Cronin]. She'll obviously look back at parts of her game she wasn't happy with. And parts she was happy with. That's just part and parcel of it.
"But I thought in general our backline looked dangerous...Eve Higgins and Stacey Flood really partnered well in midfield."
While Reilly, Higgins and Flood received praise from Miller, former Munster player Fiona Hayes looked wider on the field.
Beibhinn Parsons, Ireland's unquestioned best player and the face of women's rugby in Ireland right now, was unable to start the game. She made a cameo appearance off the bench. Parsons is famous for breaking off big runs and making her opponents flounder.
But in her absence, it was teammate Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe who broke out.
"It's her work rate that I'm amazed by. I played with her when she was 18 years old on a Munster team. Her willingness to learn, she's switched over from the 7s to the 15s not a bother on her. Her positioning has improved so much. And she's one of the players to watch in the world on the wing.
"We've two world class wingers. We've got Beibhinn [Parsons] and we've got Amy Leigh. That's something we need to start utilizing."
Two world class wingers?
Murphy Crowe is 26 years old and Parsons is not yet 21, so that gives Ireland a great platform to build the identity of the team around.
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