Nine months on from World Cup qualification, Irish coach Graham Shaw says Friday evening’s jersey presentation very much felt like “the start” of the competition proper.
The parents of each player were given the honour of handing over the green outfits they will wear next Saturday in London when they start their campaign against USA.
“An event like that does feel like ‘the start’ of the World Cup,” Shaw told the Hook. “We had the parents present the jersey which is a lovely moment for anyone, to hand over the Irish shirt to their son or daughter. It was a really nice day.”
On Saturday, his side finished their formal preparation with a 2-2 draw against Italy at Serpentine Avenue. an aggressive battle that will mirror the kind of challenge the US and India provide in the group stages.
“We are in a good place,” he said. “We can tidy up aspects of the performances but this close to competition, this was the right team for us to play.
“Against the US, we will have to bring a real physicality to it so this was the right teams to play. Italy also have a more direct style compared to other European sides which lines up quite well with what [our second opponent] India do so they worked well.”
The big news for Shaw was that Megan Frazer played her first games in almost two years and the coach said she came through unscathed.
Roisin Upton was rested for the weekend but will play a full role in a practice match on Wednesday against South Africa on the Lee Valley turf.
“We didn’t want to risk her today but she has played a lot of games and knows the systems so we are confident she has enough under her belt.”
It means Emily Beatty – who had two fine performances this week – will wait in the wings but could be brought in sooner or later if either endures further issues.
Frazer and Upton have never played in green together but probably offer the two best ball-playing options in defence and gives Shaw far more versatility to work with.
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“It will take Megan a little bit of time for her to get back full confidence playing at this level but it was a good start. She looked very composed on the ball. With Roisin also coming back, the question is now where we play her.
“We do have so many different options in the midfield and backline who can pop in to different lines. We’ve gone for a versatile and flexible side so we’re not regimented into how we line up and be too predictable.”
Ireland travel on Tuesday morning, play South Africa Wednesday, train Thursday and then rest Friday ahead of their biggest game for 16 years.