Tom Tierney secured a 30-5 victory in Florence seven days ago in what was his first game in charge. Leading just 7-0 at half-time, Ireland proceeded to turn the screw with four more tries before Flavia Severin claimed a late consolation for the hosts. It represented a good night’s work for an outfit that handed a starting debut to wing Hannah Tyrrell and five other first caps once the bench was emptied, though out-half Stapleton is remaining focused on processes rather than points.
She explained: “The scoreboard looked good, the girls got their first caps and you will always be tempted to look at the positives in any performance, but we would be looking at things like making sure the first phase is better this week than last. We stood off a bit in the last 10 minutes as well and let them in for a try. With France we know what to expect. They are a big team with only one or two changes from last season. We will have to tackle low and get them to ground early.”
Ireland will be playing their first game at “Fortress Ashbourne” since last year and the Meath ground’s moniker has been well earned this last three seasons. The side has lost just two of 13 fixtures there, both coming in the 2011 Six Nations when France flew home with a narrow 14-12 win and England followed it up with a powerful 31-0 demolition. England asserted global dominance six months ago when they were crowned world champions (having beaten Ireland in the semi-final) but they suffered an unforeseen 13-0 loss in Wales last week.
“For Wales to beat them was huge,” said Stapleton. “It makes the other teams sit up and take notice. I only saw some of it but I believe Wales were well worth the win.”
IRELAND: N Briggs (UL Bohemian/Munster); H Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster), J Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), K Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), A Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); N Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), L Muldoon (Skewen RFC); R O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), G Bourke (Olympico de Pozuelo RFC), A Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster); S Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), ML Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster); P Fitzpatrick (St Mary’s/Leinster), C Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), H O’Brien (Highfield/ Munster).
FRANCE: M Andre; L Arricastre, J Billes, C Boujard, C Cabalou, C Chobet, M De Nadai; J Tremouliere, C Saubasse, Y Rivoalen; P Rayssac, E Poublan; E Portaries, C Neissen, S N’Diaye.