Ireland will not be at the next rugby World Cup in New Zealand after losing to Scotland on Saturday.
Chloe Rollie kicked a last-minute conversion to give Scotland a 20-18 victory over Adam Griggs' side.
Griggs named an unchanged side from the team that beat Italy in the second game of the group. But the prior loss to Spain meant that Ireland needed a bonus-point win to assure their place at the World Cup. Losing meant the team that finished fourth at the World Cup in 2014 won't even be there this time around.
Former Ireland International Fiona Hayes was on that team that reached the semi-final. She was optimistic by how Ireland started the game.
“Ireland's performance at times was quite good," she said.
"Obviously game management came into place in the last 15-20 minutes, where that just didn't happen for the girls. They came out with great intent. I actually felt like it was going to be a good performance...I was thinking we could get the bonus point win here.
Scotland had those two moments before halftime and right after halftime and that's where you get killed. If a team can get you in those two parts of the game, I think you're in big trouble then.”
The failings of the Ireland team as a collective on the field were obvious for everyone to see. Their set-piece struggled in all three games, they made too many unforced errors in all three games and had egregiously bad dropped passes in the loss to Spain.
But just blaming the Ireland players would be shortsighted.
Structurally, women's rugby has fallen off significantly since 2014. Hayes saw an Ireland team that suffered from a lack of playing time and a schedule that could be managed better.
“When we look at that Spain game, dropped passes...the girls weren't match ready. They haven't been playing games. They've had numerous camps, but when you play at international level it's very, very different to the intensity that you would play.
Even the first 10 minutes can be quite hectic until you get your second wind.
They were taken away from their clubs, there was an interpros here in Ireland, players didn't play in that interpros. It was just leading up into the qualifiers, but they could have maybe looked at having that a little bit earlier and gotten those girls that game time, which is what they would have needed."
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Hayes believes the players talent shouldn't be in question. Instead, the problem is a lack of exposure. While the Premiership continued in England after Covid, the AIL never returned. This meant that some players went more than 12 months without a game.
"And we saw that in the first game against Spain, the errors were absolutely crazy from a team that I know have absolute skill and have worked very hard on their skills throughout the year...some girls might have been 18 months without actually playing a game of 15s rugby, which is absolutely crazy to think.”
The status of women's rugby in Ireland has been a topic since the changing room controversy during the interpros.
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