Ryan Byrne/INPHO Sene Naoupu (file pic).
sene says

'We believe that we're certainly capable' - Naoupu and Ireland hoping to bounce back in huge 2020

The Six Nations is the immediate focus, with crucial World Cup qualifiers also looming.

IRELAND STAR SENE Naoupu says her side believe they are “capable” of producing a much-improved 2020 Six Nations campaign as they continue to build for a big 2020.

Adam Griggs’ side are looking to turn a new leaf after their worst Six Nations finish in 13 years in 2019. A miserable campaign ended in Ireland finishing fifth after mustering up just one win.

The curtain came down on a disappointing 2019 campaign with an underwhelming 24-5 defeat to Wales in Cardiff, while fully-professional England won the Grand Slam. The Red Roses ran riot at Donnybrook in their opener, and Ireland’s sole win of the tournament came against a poor Scotland side. 

A first-ever Six Nations loss to Italy and a heavy defeat to France completed a forgettable run of matches.

But a narrow November Test loss to Wales at Belfield came as a measure of their early season progress, and Ireland looked much-improved despite a last-gasp 15-13 defeat.

And Naoupu agrees that her side need to lay down a marker and bounce back with some big results in the 2020 Six Nations.

“We’re always needing to perform,” she said as she teamed up with the Guinness brand to rally support for Ireland’s Women’s team this week.

“Whoever gets the opportunity and the honour to represent Ireland against the teams in the Six Nations, there’s always a want that you put in a performance that you’re proud of.

We believe that we’re certainly capable, and we’ve been working extremely hard to grind out some positive processes that hopefully will look after the result.

With Scotland up first at Donnybrook’s Energia Park on Sunday, 2 February [KO 1pm], Ireland have ramped their preparations up having just returned home from a training camp in Cardiff. 

After cutting the squad to 26, Griggs’ side travelled across the water to continue their training and face Wales in an uncapped game on Sunday (which the visitors won).

“It was another training weekend for us and we were just really fortunate to get the game in,” Naoupu added. “You can’t get any better of a gauge [of where you are] than playing games.

“We got out of it what we needed to which was really positive… a few work-ons. We’ve got another training camp this weekend for us to work on those, and to keep building towards that first game of the Six Nations.”

sene-naoupu-dejected Ryan Byrne / INPHO Naoupu with her side after a loss in 2018. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“Thankfully we all came away unscathed, minus the eye,” she laughs, sporting a bloodshot right eye, but stressing she’s okay. “Training has been going extremely well, actually.

Competition for places across the whole squad has never been harder, so that’s a real positive. It’s challenging each of us to be better and as a squad, to come together a bit more.

While the Six Nations is the immediate focus, crucial 2021 World Cup qualifiers lie ahead in September, and Naoupu is cognisant of that.

Ireland’s poor showing at the 2017 World Cup on home soil means that they did not automatically qualify for the next tournament in New Zealand. In September, they will face Scotland, Italy and the winner of the 2020 Rugby Europe Championship in the qualifiers.

Not much changes in their Six Nations approach, but Leinster out-half Naoupu stresses that they must keep “the bigger picture” in mind. 

“The Six Nations is certainly an extremely important tournament for us,” she continues. “It always has been an important tradition as well.

From a performance point of view, there’s some targets that we’re hoping to achieve within the Six Nations as a campaign, as a squad. But obviously the World Cup qualifier is also incredibly important to us.

“This is a busy season, we have a busy schedule ahead with some summer games that we’ve got in there in preparation for the World Cup qualifier in September. It’s a season of building towards that qualifier.”

And the Kiwi is content with their progress so far.

“We’ve got some more effective processes perhaps from a leadership group point-of-view, and the peer group,” she adds. “We’ve been enjoying learning some new things from a couple of new coaches as well that have come in. 

sene-naoupu Tommy Dickson / INPHO Sene Naoupu has teamed up with the GUINNESS brand to rally support for the Ireland’s Women’s team ahead of their upcoming Six Nations campaign. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“Steve McGinnis is an [IRFU] Exiles [co-coordinator], he works with the forwards and has been doing some super work with us as well as Kieran Hallet who’s our new defensive coach. We’re really excited about our new defensive system which also adds to keeping us in the game in an attacking sense. And Adam Griggs is doing excellent as our head coach. 

We’re constantly learning new things. We’re at that stage; this part of the season where we’re fine-tuning a few things within our defensive and attacking systems. It’s exciting for the girls to be on the same page, to play in a squad where everyone does their job and things like that.

“From a coaching point of view, certainly there’s been some fantastic coaches in the past and then obviously now, with a really strong coaching and management team. It’s going to be an exciting campaign.”

With two uncapped players currently in the 26 — Dorothy Wall and Clare Keohane — Naoupu points out a few more rising stars coming through who keep everyone on their toes.

Leinster teenage duo Judy Bobbett and Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony, 2018/19 AIL Rising Star winner and promising centre Enya Breen, newly-transformed 10 Ellen Murphy and Larissa Muldoon are others she names to watch ahead of a massive 2020.

“It’s excellent,” the former Connacht ace notes. “There’s a lot of young girls coming through and they’re there because they’re good enough, and well able to perform at this level. 

There’s a lot of challenges and some positive competition for places to make the final matchday squad. That’s something that’s extremely positive. 

“Certainly, there were some work-ons that we’ve been working hard at, and establishing some bad habits so that we can perform a bit better come game day.”


Irish International and Leinster rugby player Sene Naoupu has teamed up with the GUINNESS brand to rally support for Ireland’s Women’s team ahead of their upcoming Women’s Six Nations Championship campaign.

The GUINNESS brand, as a proud Partner of the IRFU and Official Partner to the Women’s Six Nations, is encouraging pubs across the island of Ireland to screen the women’s forthcoming Six Nations Championship matches.  

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