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Rising talent Beibhinn Parsons must be prepared for the extra attention her performances will grant her both on and off the pitch, according to Ireland head coach Adam Griggs.
Having got their Women’s Six Nations campaign off to a flier with a 45-0 win over Wales last weekend, Griggs’ side now face a crunch clash against France with a place in the final on the line, but it is Parsons who is grabbing all the media attention.
The 19-year-old’s rise has been meteoric and, having made her international debut at just 16, all the good judges predict that Parsons is an Irish sporting superstar in the making.
The winner of the Guinness Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year last season, she first truly caught the eye with a spectacular try against Wales in last year’s Six Nations - and she repeated the feat with a double last weekend.
Parsons may only have nine caps to her name, but she’s packed an awful lot into them and has Irish rugby salivating at her potential - but tougher tests await.
“She’s getting a lot of attention but you’ve probably heard she’s quite mature for her age,” Griggs said.
“I’ve been with Beibhinn since she burst onto the scene. I was involved with her in the under-18s Sevens set up as well so we’ve known each other a while now.
“I think she’s handling it quite well. I guess the side of it we need to be prepared for is with that attention and how well she’s done she’s going to come across a lot stronger defence this weekend.
“If I was coaching the opposite side I’d be putting two defenders on her to make sure she’s marked up well so we’ve got to make sure that we can bring her into the game in other ways, not just the highlight reel stuff that we saw last week.
“It’s going to take more of an effort to grind them down and she’s capable of that. That’s probably where she’s still learning a bit in just understanding her role and how she can be a threat in other areas of the field rather than just waiting on the wing for a ball.”
World No.4 ranked France will surely challenge Parsons’ growing status, and will pose a much greater threat than Ireland faced against Wales.
Eimear Considine was also at the double as the visitors secured the bonus point inside 18 minutes in Cardiff.
And Griggs has named an unchanged starting XV off of the back of that, but has called for greater consistency after Ireland tailed off in the second half in Wales.
“We’ve talked about some cohesion with the starting side and we look at last week’s performance, we got off to a really good start in the first half and that’s really how we want to play the game,” he added.
“Giving them that opportunity against the French this weekend was really key, they’re rewarded for the good start we’ve had.
“While the first half was sharp and we executed what we wanted to, there’s a focus on maintaining that and making sure that either side of half time, those ten minutes either side, we maintain what we laid our platform on last week.”
On two separate occasions in 2020 this fixture was called off, with the last meeting between the two sides coming in March 2019.
France cruised to a 47-17 win on that occasion and Griggs knows that they will take some stopping two years on, too.
“They’ve got threats across the park, you look at [Pauline] Bourdon at nine and [Caroline] Boujard on the wing,” Griggs said. “They’re two players we’re going to have to keep a lid on early on.
“We’ve really got to target slowing down their ball. If they get front-foot ball they can be really dangerous on the attack.
“Us on that breakdown, it’s about making sure we can disrupt that early on. In terms of our attack it’s about being patient and earning that right to play.
“We’ve spoken about testing ourselves against world class opposition and France are fourth in the world, they compete regularly with the likes of England.
“We’re really excited to see where we’re at with our journey and how we stack up, and our performance last week has given us some confidence that we can cause an upset when they come here on Saturday.”