Ciara Griffin column: “Sevens withdrawals are an unnecessary distraction prior to England trip.”

Ciara Griffin

Venue: Welford Road, Leicester Date: Sunday, 24 April Kick-off:12:00 BST
Coverage:You can watch BBC Two and listen to BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Live text commentary is available on the BBC Sport website.

England is always a formidable challenge. Ireland didn't need any disruption in the run-up to Sunday because key players returned to the sevens.

It is a difficult situation to find yourself in. Although I am aware that Greg McWilliams, Ireland's head coach, said at the outset that sevens selection was possible for players, it is an unnecessary distraction in such a large game against England.

The sevens players were able to seamlessly integrate into the 15s. Eve Higgins has been an incredible centre player, playing some of the best rugby at 15s, Stacey Flood has done well in 12, Lucy Mulhall has demonstrated her versatility, while Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe has been brilliant on the wings.

Brittany Hogan and Beibhinn Persons have been taken away. That means that many of the big names involved in the last three games are no longer available. This only hurts Ireland’s chances and disturbs the unity that has been built over this championship.

They played great rugby and were now an integral part of our team. It would have been amazing to see how those players could have played against England. This is a missed opportunity that was stressful for all the players.

Sometimes, it all comes down to simple communication. Although it sounds easy, it is often forgotten.

The sevens calendar is packed and they must qualify for 2024 Olympics. But, both calendars should be aligned in a way that suits both codes. This is something that should be considered.

I understand that the IRFU wants the sevens game to grow, but we must also grow the 15s – it cannot all be sevens focused.

It has happened before. Players were pulled in 2017 due to sevens commitments. We won the game, but with so many quality players absent, it's not easy for Ireland to score at Welford Road.

Beibhinn Parsons, Stacey Flood and Eve Higgins
Because of sevens commitments, Beibhinn Parasons, Stacey Flood or Eve Higgins will not be able to travel to Ireland.

We hope it is the last disruption of this nature, as it is unfair for the players.

Sam Monaghan's injury is another big blow. Sam was the tournament's player-of-the-tournament for Ireland. She's a leader within the team because of her physicality, work ethic and skill.

I was eager to see her against Abbie Ward or Poppy Clell. She regularly plays against them at club level. However, international level is a far more prestigious arena. I hope she can regain fitness in time to play in the Scotland game in Belfast.

“England reaping the rewards of long-term Vision”

Ireland will have been happy to win against Italy. They were able to get the job done in Cork in front of a huge crowd. The collective performance was also much better in terms unforced errors.

It's a different experience to face England away. They are hands-down the best team in all of football and they have won numerous international championships. proven that with their recent results.

Although they admit that they don't always play their best rugby at times, they still put 50 points on each team, which shows how high they hold themselves.

We are seeing the results of investing in a program and believing in it. They took a risk by becoming professional before the 2017 World Cup. Now they are reaping the benefits of their long-term vision.

The team is so cohesive because they have spent enough time together, both on and off the pitch. Professional outlet allows you to play with other players, as well as recover from and conduct analysis sessions. This all helps build the team's cohesion.

It doesn't matter how you view it, Ireland will face a huge challenge. Ireland must focus on what we would call'mini wins'. This can be at set-piece or breakdown. Some mauls in England have gone on for 20+ metres.

Ireland must play with an offensive mindset and not get in their way. This is their chance to prove what they can against the best players around the world. They will love this tough test of their credentials.

Because of the significance it has to both countries, there was always an edge to the build up to an England match.

England requires a completely different mindset and I am sure many players will experience it. The first time that some Irish players will face England is a challenge.

They can channel the pre-game excitement and nervous energy into a disciplined performance. This could lead to positives at Welford Road as they welcome Scotland to Kingspan Stadium.

Ciara Griffin spoke to Matt Gault, BBC Sport.

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