Roisin McBrien is a flanker with an unabashed passion for rugby. At a special training session with Leicester City women where the team taught the outsiders passing, kicking and line-out skills, when asked whether she’d enjoy a trip over to the King Power stadium she replied ‘No’ before laughing and adding that she ‘likes to hit things’. Named as Forward of the Match in the team’s first ever game, away at Bishop Auckland, she was described as a ‘Neil Back style 7’ by head of women’s rugby Vicky Macqueen, the highest compliment a back-rower could receive. From there she hasn’t looked back, consistently covering every blade out of grass out on the field, confidently flying to secure line-outs and making crucial crunching hits to force knock-ons in vital moments of big matches.
We spoke to McBrien following the side’s semi-final win over Old Albanian Ladies for her thoughts on the game and what’s to come.
Was there anything this week in training the team were working on in preparation for this match?
Not hugely, we try and go into every week with the same level of intensity. We wanted to try and treat this as just another match, just sharpening up areas of our game that might need fine tuning but, otherwise, we wanted to stick to the way we’ve been doing things.
From a tactical perspective, was there anything specific that you expected from the opposition that you were keen to neutralise?
Absolutely, we analysed their line-outs from their last game and also looked at the way they set up in defence, using that to target certain areas on the pitch. I think that preparation worked quite well, especially in the second-half after we’d adjusted a couple of things at the set-piece. The backs might have looked at something else but that’s what we (the forwards) looked at specifically.
Speaking of the forwards, set-piece dominance played a massive part in today’s result, whether that be at scrum-time or line-outs, how important was the platform the set-piece would set?
You’ve got to have the ball to win the game so it’s vital. Full credit to our front row, they were instrumental in walking them back at the scrum. It was massive and contributed to some of our biggest momentum shifts within the match. We felt that, in the first half, we weren’t clinical enough at the line-out and we were lucky those at the back of the line fought to retain the ball. We cleaned it up at half-time and went back to basics, prioritising speed and efficiency and it worked a lot better.
On the topic of momentum shifts, a theme of today’s match was the jackal, heavily utilised by both yourself and several of your compatriots. How important was the turnover ball in stifling possession for the opposition?
It’s vital. When you’re on the back foot, you can see them making yards and you manage to win a turnover, you can feel the momentum shift, as a team it can change your whole mindset.
Finally, how excited are you to be running out at Twickenham in a couple of weeks?
Absolutely buzzing, we all just cannot wait. It’s our first season together as a group, the first time most of us have ever played with one another and it’s been a great experience, I just can’t wait!