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Cardiff offers Ireland an ideal stage to put months of frustration behind them

Today’s Six Nations meeting with Wales is Ireland’s first outing since last October.

Ireland wing Beibhinn Parsons.
Ireland wing Beibhinn Parsons.

A FEW WEEKS ago Ireland’s Anna Caplice was asked about the significance of the newly announced WXV tournament, and joked it was very much welcomed as she was ‘sick of playing Wales’ so often.

In most seasons that is probably the case, but this time around Adam Griggs’ squad will never have been happier to see their familiar foes from across the pond.

Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Wales in Cardiff this evening [KO 5pm, RTÉ], represent a first competitive fixture in six long, frustrating months.

In that sense it is very hard to predict what we can expect to see from Ireland. Griggs is anticipating some mistakes from his side, basing that prediction on the errors that were sprinkled throughout their win against Italy last October.

In terms of team selection, he’s played it relatively safe. Exciting centre Eve Higgins represents the only new cap in the starting XV, while Emily Lane and Stacey Flood could debut off the bench. There is no place for Sevens superstar Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, with Griggs admitting her game still needs some fine-tuning before being thrown onto the 15s stage. 

What we can expect is for Ireland to look for a fast start. While Wales were hammered 53-0 by France last weekend, the Ireland squad are wary that they at least have a competitive match to their name. Most of the Wales squad have also been exposed to more regular gametime through playing in the Premier 15s league in England.

Ireland, on the other hand, are working off a series of training camps and in-house matches, but head into the game determined to play. The squad have been noticeably confident in their despatches from camp, happy to talk up their increased fitness levels and sharpened game understanding on the back of weeks and weeks of training camps. 

adam-griggs Head coach Adam Griggs keeps watch during an Ireland training session. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Speaking shortly after naming his team on Thursday, Griggs outlined that desire to play with intent – “The message is definitely to let your instincts take over and back yourself to play.”

They certainly have the players to do just that, and showed plenty of promise going forward in 2020.

New addition Higgins brings all the skills you would expect given her Sevens background and has the ability to add an extra spark to the Ireland backline. The return of Eimear Considine offers an assured presence at fullback while 19-year-old flyer Beibhinn Parsons will look to kick on after a hugely promising 2020. 

Dorothy Wall brings real dynamism to an otherwise familiar backrow which sees her partner the experienced pair of Claire Molloy and captain Ciara Griffin, while the return of Aoife McDermott to the second row is a significant boost for Ireland’s set-piece.

Ireland won this fixture 31-12 in Donnybrook last season and can aim for a similarly positive outcome today, once the lack of match sharpness doesn’t prove too much of an issue.

aoife-mcdermott Aoife McDermott returns to the Ireland second row. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Wales, for their part, will be desperate to make amends for last weekend’s brutal thrashing in France. Given they were never expected win in Vannes, their season largely rests on this game, and that is the message that will have been rammed home this week.

They’ve made four changes to their starting XV and have had to plan without the services of Jasmine Joyce – one of the few proven try-scorers in the Wales squad – as she links up with the Great Britain 7s.

Ireland also know that beating Wales is something of a minimum requirement in any Six Nations campaign, and that has been emphasized further by the announcement of the WXV tournament, which will see the top three Six Nations teams take on the top three teams from a cross-regional tournament featuring Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the USA.

As a result, finishing in the top three of the Six Nations will become more important than ever. Ireland have been craving more regular opportunities to test themselves against top-tier opposition, and WXV offers exactly that.

Considering the squad’s desire to grow the game, it is a great shame their opening Six Nations fixture clashes with Leinster’s Champions Cup meeting with Exeter.

This is an Irish squad with lofty ambitions, who have openly spoken about recording an upset in the coming weeks, with France in town next weekend before a potential play-off against high-flying England.

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In this condensed, re-worked championship, today’s trip to Cardiff should offer an ideal platform to put months of frustration behind them and get their campaign off to a winning start. 

Wales: Robyn Wilkins; Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones, Kerin Lake, Courtney Keight; Elinor Snowsill, Jess Roberts; Cara Hope, Kelsey Jones, Cerys Hale, Natalia John, Gwen Crabb, Georgia Evans, Manon Johnes, Siwan Lillicrap (captain).

Replacements: Molly Kelly, Caryl Thomas, Donna Rose, Teleri Wyn Davies, Bethan Dainton, Megan Davies, Niamh Terry, Caitlin Lewis

Ireland: Eimear Considine; Lauren Delany, Eve Higgins, Sene Naoupu, Beibhinn Parsons; Hannah Tyrrell, Kathryn Dane; Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang; Aoife McDermott, Nichola Fryday; Dorothy Wall, Claire Molloy, Ciara Griffin (captain).

Replacements: Neve Jones, Katie O’Dwyer, Laura Feely, Brittany Hogan, Hannah O’Connor, Emily Lane, Stacey Flood, Enya Breen.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey look back on a mixed weekend in Europe for the provinces before previewing Exeter-Leinster and Wales-Ireland.

About the author:

Ciarán Kennedy

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