IT’S A TRUISM of rugby in any form that an open expansive game makes the sport more accessible.
The players are less embroiled in hand-to-hand combat and so their athletic attributes are more visible the more chances they get to run in open field.
It’s for that reason that prolific Ireland wing Alison Miller took satisfaction from the way her side sealed the Women’s Six Nations Championship on Sunday.
Needing a 27-point win over Scotland, Miller’s hat-trick of tries helped Ireland Women to a record 73 – 3 victory. Live on RTE 2 at lunchtime on Sunday, it made for a superb platform to promote the game.
“2013 was a shit fest to say the least,” Miller says with a winger’s disgust at the memory of the mud-soaked Grand Slam sealing win over Italy.
“So people probably think you are crap and you can’t catch a ball. I was at the match and we got the cup and I heard two men going ‘sure they can’t pass the ball, like’.
“I was like, I challenge the men’s senior team out in those conditions and they wouldn’t know what to do. They wouldn’t be used to playing in those conditions and neither were we. We never played a club match in those conditions. It was like trying to handle a bar of soap.
“So to play in those conditions, it shows what we can do. We can play ball: that 2013 year, all the games up to that point were quite expansive, they would have been great to televise.”
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Miller isn’t complaining about lack of coverage, she’s just thrilled to be able to put on a good show this time around.
Aside from the sunshine over Broadwood Stadium, the pitch played an important role in that too: a 3G artificial surface that is made for clean ball, crisp passing and fast running. As a key part of the Ireland Sevens programme, Miller is used to ‘plastic’ pitches. So even when the clock was red, she was urging out-half Nora Stapleton to keep the ball alive so they might run one last play. If only Ireland Women had the opportunity to play a home fixture on such a state-of-the art surface. Like the one a stone’s throw away from Lansdowne Road.
“Obviously Ashbourne, with the support there, has been fantastic but it’s not the handiest place for people to get to,” Miller says.
“We would play there any day, we get great support but it’d obviously be nice to play in Donnybrook there. Even if it was a mixture of both it wouldn’t be too bad – if we play there once – it is obviously great to play on that surface. It’s easier to make breaks. For the footwork, the surface is better underneath.”