New Scotland Women’s rugby coach Philip Doyle has his sights trained on only one thing – getting the team to their first World Cup for 11 years.
The 54-year-old Irishman replaced Shade Munro in April and has spent the past few months getting his feet under the table and learning about the task at hand. A historic tour to South Africa in October will be followed by November Tests against Wales and Japan at Scotstoun, but Doyle was straight to the point.
“Scottish Rugby have been ultra-supportive and my sole goal is to qualify for the World Cup in 2021,” said the former Blackrock player who is nicknamed “Goose”.
Under Doyle, Ireland achieved a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013, then at the 2014 World Cup he was in charge of the team that defeated the New Zealand Black Ferns in the pool stages, becoming the first Irish international side to beat a New Zealand national team. They reached the semi-finals before finishing in fourth place.
Scotland haven’t featured at a World Cup since England in 2010 and agonisingly missed out on the last one when they narrowly lost a two-legged play-off with Spain.
It is a long road ahead to New Zealand in 2021 as Doyle explained: “We didn’t qualify for the last World Cup, so we go into a competition next August with three other countries. I expect them to be Spain, Italy and Ireland.
“On world rankings next July – at the minute we are fourth out of those nations – one will play four home and away, two will play three home and away, and the winners on aggregate will go into a one-off final.
“The winner of that final will go to the World Cup and the second-placed team will go into another repechage tournament against a team from Africa or Asia.”
It sounds complicated but the man from Wexford views it quite simply.
“It is clear to us what we have to do,” he said.
“The Six Nations is vitally important for our development, but it’s all going down to the qualification games and I have told the girls already we don’t have to peak now, but come next August/September we have to be at our best.
“I set the goals and I told the guys at Scottish Rugby that the Six Nations would be bedding in and experimental as part of our journey and they accepted that.”
Doyle is a straight-shooter and, while a club rugby player, he did attain Irish international honours – in the unlikely field of paintballing, which is where he earned his nickname.
“I used to play Skirmish, paintballing, I played for Ireland,” he said with a smile. “Then the Top Gun movie came out and then we had a Goose, myself, and a Maverick in our group.”
The former electrician, who first coached Ireland back in 2003, got into women’s rugby through his wife Nicola.
“She began to play, was in the first women’s team at Blackrock, then helped set up the women’s union in Ireland and was second president of that,” he explained.
Doyle will be assisted in his new role by assistants Bryan Easson and Andy Weir, and will also be able to call on scrum specialists within Scottish Rugby’s coaching programme.
After a dispiriting few years, former Scotland lock and Glasgow assistant coach Munro solidified the women’s international team then guided them to long-awaited wins, but left after a whitewash this year.
“Scotland’s results haven’t been right for the last couple of years, but I see a lot of similarities to the Ireland situation and I am enthused about trying to get them to a World Cup,” added Doyle.