Army Women’s Head Coach WO2 Sarah Mitchelson (RLC) admitted there were lessons to be learned after her side suffered a first defeat of the season in a 27-0 reverse at home to Sweden.
A hat-trick from Sara Jakobsson and further Linda Hakansson and Catrina Thrin scores did the damage for the Scandanavians, with WO2 Mitchelson revealing their defence will be an area to work on in the weeks to come.
The Red Shirts conceded three penalties for high tackles inside the opening five minutes and were also exposed out wide by Jakobsson, leading the head coach to say: “(The tackle height) is something we’ve got to work on.
“We’ve got players in PWR (Premiership Women’s Rugby) and they’re having to change their instincts to be playing the community game, but we have to because they are the rules when we get to Inter-Services.
“It improved during the game, but definitely in the first half it gave them more of the possession.”
She continued: “We worked on it a lot in training during the week, but you can’t over-do it because you’ll kill the players.
“It’s a balance because it needs to be contact, you can’t do it playing touch, but we’ll just have to keep working.
“Moving forward it will be all about making improvements – our goal for this game was to let no-one come through the middle and while at times we were a bit soft, no-one did.
“But it’s clear we now need to work on our defence on the outside, so that will be a big focus moving forward.”
Having beaten Pacific Islanders and Brunel University before Christmas, the Red Shirts faced a side gearing up for their Rugby Europe Championship opener against Netherlands in less than a fortnight, a side who impressed under the leadership of coach and former England international Tamara Taylor.
And Mitchelson revealed: “They looked like they were further down their road, whereas for some of our players it was the first time putting on a Red Shirt.
“Sweden were very good, well-drilled – a very Tamara Taylor team – but I thought our players all did well as a team for a first time together.
“It’s not how they shine as individuals but how they work as a side, and all the players did that.
“I can’t doubt the effort, in the first half I was frustrated by our intent, but the second half and definitely the last 20 minutes, it increased.”
While disappointed with defeat, Sarah remained upbeat as she ended: “We got a lot out of the game and it’s why we asked for the Wales and England Under 20s fixtures later in the season – results do matter but they don’t at the same time, it’s all about the performance and how we’re challenged.
“There’s good competition for places – we’ve still got players out injured and some who were unavailable for this fixture, so there’s still more to come from the squad.”
Words © Richard Ashton
All images – Alligin Photography © Cat Goryn