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Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Another tough campaign ahead for Ireland women as old mentor comes to town

Here are your ridiculously early Women’s Six Nations predictions.
Jan 2nd 2020, 9:00 AM 3,722 1

CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS HAVE made for grim reading for Ireland Women in recent years.

Since falling short in a 2017 Grand Slam decider with England they have endured a World Cup debacle and tasted victory in just three of the 10 Six Nations outings. Most recently away to Scotland and also at home to Wales and Italy.

The IRFU has taken a long hard look at the women’s game here and the structural work is ongoing to improve the player development pathways through the club scene and provincial level.

However, the top echelon continues to appear beyond Ireland’s reach.

Often in a very real sense as the summer’s Super Series was played out in San Diego among heavyweights USA, Canada, New Zealand, England and France.

Come autumn, the planned Tests took the form of a single match against Wales, who will again provide the opposition ahead of the Six Nations this month in an uncapped warm-up fixture.

Autumn also featured intensive training camps in conjunction with France and Scotland. In the relatively recent history the former could have been presented as a barometer for Ireland. In 2020, there can be no looking beyond the latter.

Scotland are Ireland’s opening Six Nations opponent in Donnybrook on Sunday 2 February and our celtic cousins have been steadily improving under the watch of Philip Doyle – the Dubliner who coached Ireland to their 2013 Grand Slam.

philip-doyle Doyle speaking with his squad at the 2014 World Cup. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The days of long, long multi-year losing streaks are behind the Scots and although they suffered a losing run in Tests away in South Africa and at home to Japan and Wales, they will arrive in Donnybrook emboldened by their match experience in 2019.

Wales also accounted for Adam Griggs’ side in November, a last-gasp Keira Bevan try denying Ireland a win in UCD and making it back-to-back successes for the Principality against Ireland.

If Ireland can manage to force a win in the opener against Scotland then the outlook will look a whole lot brighter when they welcome Wales to Energia Park a week later.  Italy’s sprightly, expansive attacking game helped them to claim a second-place finish in last year’s Championship and Ireland will need to be hitting richer veins of form, limiting the error-count and growing cohesion in attack  to avenge last season’s bonus point loss in Parma.

They are the matches that will define Ireland’s Championship and set their confidence levels for September’s crucial 2020 World Cup qualifier.

England and France are simply operating on a different level to their four rivals in this tournament and both represent massively daunting away trips for Ireland in rounds one and five respectively. However, the two behemoths will collide on opening weekend. So Griggs will hope to take advantage if either is caught licking their wounds.

In the performances of the likes of Anna Caplice, Eimear Considine and Cliodhna Moloney it is clear there is talent to work with in the Ireland setup and Leinster continually prove themselves to be a formidable outfit on the domestic scene. But bringing that all together is a challenge that Ireland have not managed to adequately nail since their 2017 World Cup.

The five matches ahead are as good a chance as they’ll get to turn it around.

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2020 Women’s Six Nations final standings predictions







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Sean Farrell


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