Day 3 – Wales & France
First up was Wales, probably the pre-tournament favourites. We lost 9-3.
However, it was another game where our spirit was exactly right. Many of our team would never have come up against players of this quality before. When you’re defending, especially in the middle, against these players it can be bewildering and you have to learn fast.
Wales base much of their game plan around one player, who never defends, just comes on to attack. He’s definitely one of the best players in Europe. People say he’s a bit of a knob…
But that’s too easy. I don’t know him. It partly because he’s good that people say that. I often (not always) find the players you intensely dislike when you play against them I grow to like when I actually get to know them.
Players like him you want to test yourself against, learn how to deal with him. Get in his face, put him under pressure, front up to him. Make him beat you if he’s good enough, don’t beat yourself and learn, learn, learn all the time.
After Wales we had France. This was going to decide our whole tournament. We needed to win to progress out of our group into the quarter finals.
My body is tired going into this game, from the heat and the games, but you can’t let yourself be tired. You talk energy back into your body, you make sure your teammates are with you, talk and encourage, make eye contact with them, tap them on the shoulder, everything you can do.
Going onto the pitch I have one thought running through my head – on the bus to the game, we listened to the song ‘I won’t back down’, the Johnny Cash version, courtesy of DJ Divinia.
I’m not backing down I keep saying to myself. I find myself staring at my opposite player. The French female winger (France’s most capped Touch player apparently) is looking at me. She smiles. ‘Are you trying to psyche him?’ she say. I smile back and shrug. No I won’t back down.
1-1 at half-time. This is tense, this is hard. Our communication, our defence is wonderful. What a difference from our first game against Guernsey where we let in 7 tries. At the start of the second half we run a move, I break through the line and almost set Dawn in to score. We bring it out, run a variation, some great passing and Gail dives over.
From here we hang in.
Now, as the seconds tick, for a moment I think about Keith Wood and every heartbreaking game Ireland has lost against France in rugby…
World Cup 95, 03, 07. Croke Park 07.
And I’m going NO, we’re not losing to France, NO. Dig in. Dig in.
So, we don’t lose. Instead we win. 2-1. And we’re into the Quarter Finals against Scotland. So there.