Women's Rugby World Cup: Irish 'expected to beat New Zealand'

Lynne Cantwell, Fiona Coghlan, Fiona Hayes and Gillian Bourke
Ireland were the first country since 1991 to beat New Zealand in a World Cup match

Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan says the team's shock 17-14 World Cup victory over four-time winners New Zealand in France was no surprise to her.

It was New Zealand's first World Cup defeat for 23 years and virtually seals a semi-final place for Ireland.

Coghlan said: "I knew if we stuck to our game plan, we would get the win.

"We pinned them back in their own 22. We played clever rugby. The work the entire management and squad has put in has been phenomenal."

Ireland's victory in Marcoussis was the first women's game between the two countries.

The Black Ferns have won the last four tournaments and had not lost a World Cup game since a defeat to the United States in the 1991 semi-finals.

Victory over Pool B minnows Kazakhstan on Saturday will guarantee Philip Doyle's Irish side a place in the semi-final.

Women's Rugby World Cup - Pool B
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The holders made the better start as Selica Winiata's try helped them lead 8-0, but touchdowns by Heather O'Brien and Alison Miller and eight points from full-back Niamh Briggs helped the Irish to achieve a famous victory.

To put the win in context, Ireland's men have failed to beat New Zealand in all their 28 previous meetings.

One of the most impressive aspects of Ireland's display was the way they closed out the momentous win by keeping New Zealand in their own half in the final five minutes of the contest.

Coghlan said: "Before the game we spoke a lot about taking the game to them and not just sitting back and being defensive.

"That was very much the mindset of the whole team."

Ireland won their first ever women's Six Nations title in their Grand Slam winning season in 2013 and Coghlan said the increased resources being allocated to the sport were bearing fruit.

"Over the last couple of years, the strength and conditioning work and the [improved] coaching we are getting has improved our game immensely," she added.

"As a result of that, the number of players in Ireland is increasing. It's still not where we want to be but it is improving all the time.

"We have improved significantly from the last World Cup and that's why we were upfront in saying that we thought we were good enough to be in a semi-final and see how things work from there."

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