The Womens Six Nations began this Friday with Wales 18-17 Scotland. Ireland begin against France on Saturday at Stade Ernest Wallon. They then play three home games, against Italy, Wales, and Scotland in Donnybrook. Finally they finish off against England at the Ricoh Arena.
Last year Ireland showed a lot of grit in winning their first 4 games. A late show against Scotland, a late push for a bonus point against Italy showed Ireland play to the final whistle. Ireland then beat France while missing several players who were called into the 7s squad. Then a tight win against Wales meant a grandslam and championship were on the line against England. Ireland played well in that game, much better than the score-line suggests, but England were able to keep their noses in front and run up the score late on. All in all it was a good tournament.
The World Cup was a success for Womens Rugby, but a disappointment for the Irish team. The pool was difficult, but Ireland should have made it out. Wins against Australia and Japan had set up a winner-take-all clash with France, who Ireland had beaten in the Six Nations with a depleted team. They were unable to repeat the result and were beaten comfortably. Ireland would then play-offs against two teams they’d beaten during the year, Australia and Wales. It was a disappointing, and frustrating campaign for the host nation. It leaves a lot to make up for in this years Six Nations.
In terms of key players, Niamh Briggs is back having missed much of the last year through injury. The fullbacks leadership will give Ireland a boost, particularly in the absence of a retired Sophie Spence. The player who had taken over the goal kicking duties; Nora Stapleton, will give Ireland another option there. Sene Naoupu has been outstanding in the couple of years she’s been in the team in 2015. Her running ability makes Ireland dangerous on the attack, she seems incapable of having a bad game. Flanker Claire Molloy has long been a vital player to the team having helped Ireland to a grandslam in 2013. She’ll be key at set pieces, as will Lindsey Peat. Flanker Ciara Griffin has been named captain, something which will hopefully give her a boost and help her lift her teammates. Jenny Murphy was Irelands outstanding player during the World Cup, she’ll be a big miss this time around.
World Cup finalists England will be favourites to retain their crown. Ireland have to go away to them, which will be very difficult. Wins in the first 4 games are vital. I’m feeling positive going into this Six Nations, as I feel a poor World Cup will spur the team on. It’ll be difficult, but Ireland have the potential to take the crown.
The team for France has been named. Megan Williams gets her first cap.
Ireland team v France:
Kim Flood; Megan Williams, Claire McLaughlin, Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller, Niamh Briggs, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Fiona Reidy; Ciara Cooney, Orla Fitzsimons; Anna Caplice, Claire Molloy, Ciara Griffin (captain).
Replacements: Leah Lyons, Laura Feely, Ciara O'Connor, Nichola Fryday, Paula Fitzpatrick, Mary Healy, Nikki Caughey, Mairead Coyne.
Kick-off times in Irish time
Saturday 3rd February
France – Ireland; 20:00
Sunday 11th February
Ireland – Italy; 13:00
Sunday 25th February
Ireland – Wales; 15:00
Sunday 11th March
Ireland – Scotland; 13:00
Friday 16th March
England – Ireland; 17:30
Ciarán Duffy (@TheVoiceDepth) is a Leinster supporter and self-proclaimed ‘big cheese’ of Post To Post (@PostToPostSport). He’ll write about anything rugby under the condition he gets to take it too seriously.
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