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No Aviva Stadium fixture this year but Ireland Women unbothered

Tom Tierney’s side will not play at the Dublin stadium this year, instead staying put in their old home.

YOU WOULDN’T BLAME Ireland Women for kicking up a fuss over the fact that they will not play a Six Nations game at the Aviva Stadium this year, but that reaction would be at odds with their consistent focus on performance.

The women's team line up for the national anthem Ireland played at the Lansdowne Road venue last season. Colm O'Neill / INPHO Colm O'Neill / INPHO / INPHO

Both of Ireland’s home games in this season’s competition will be played at Ashbourne RFC, despite the Aviva Stadium having hosted their clash with Italy in 2014.

That move had seemed a major step forward for women’s rugby in this country, even if the stadium was far from full following the completion of the men’s game against the Azzurri earlier in the day.

Whatever about the argument that Ireland Women need a bigger stage, there are no angry words coming from their camp. They’re concentrating on the challenge of playing France tomorrow evening, having dispatched Italy last weekend.

Out-half Nora Stapleton is looking to the positives of a ground where they have some excellent memories. Chief among them is the 15-10 win over the French in 2013′s Grand Slam run.

“You always want to promote the game in whatever way you can,” says the Old Belvedere playmaker. “Hopefully in Ashbourne we get a big crowd out there. The last time we had France over, I think there was close to 4,500 people out at the game.

“I just remember it being absolutely wedged. When we were on the field, it was a really foggy night, and there was just people all around. I remember thinking ‘this is a hell of a lot more people than we’ve ever got to a game before’.

Nora Stapleton Stapleton says Ireland's focus is purely on rugby. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“You can cater for that in Ashbourne and it would be lovely to get that kind of crowd out there again. Do we mind missing out on the Aviva? We don’t particularly mind where we play. At the Aviva, while it is a great venue, you are only going to get a half stadium.”

It’s a good point from the intelligent out-half. The confines of the smaller venue allow Ireland to benefit from a more closed-in atmosphere, rather than looking up to empty seats in the national rugby stadium.

If Ireland Women’s fixtures are to be moved into Dublin again, there may be a case for looking at slightly smaller grounds. Donnybrook springs to mind.

We are playing in Ashbourne this year and it’s fantastic,” says Stapleton. “Ashbourne, you get amazing crowds out there. I’m not sure if the Aviva is necessarily somewhere we have to play.

“There are probably other venues that you could look at, but in the meantime as players we just play the game. It is not something we give out about, or wonder about, or anything like that.

“It is just about playing the match. Really, it’s down to IRFU marketing and promotion for them to look at that next year if they want to change it.”

Centre switch for Ireland Women as they welcome France to fortress Ashbourne

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