Adam Griggs’ side are hot favourites to extend their 12-game winning streak against the Scots, which dates back to an 18-6 success in the 2007 Championship.
However, Jenny Murphy’s stoppage-time converted try was all that separated the two nations in last year’s encounter at Broadwood Stadium, and Briggs believes the Scots will continue to progress over the next 12 months.
“They’ve had some dark days in term of them as a squad, and where women’s rugby was in Scotland, but I think that they’re on the right track now. They’ve got some really dangerous players. They’ve got professional players, we don’t have that,” the Waterford native remarked yesterday.
“They’ve been unlucky I think in some of the results that they’ve had so far, because they’ve had some really good snippets. I think as this tournament and the next tournament goes on, they’re definitely going to keep improving all the time.”
Now fully recovered from the Achilles injury that ruled her out of last year’s World Cup, Briggs has taken on a new role under the stewardship of Griggs. Best known as a full-back, the UL Bohemians star is now a mainstay at out-half.
“It’s like a new lease of life. I’m learning loads. Having been out for so long and then coming back into a new position, it was almost like my first cap again. I definitely fell out of love a bit with the game after the World Cup,” Briggs explained.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue playing. To come back and to come into the 10 jersey, it’s been really exciting. It’s definitely a challenge. I’m not used to being stuck in there not having a lot of space.”
In addition to Hannah Tyrrell and Cliodhna Moloney’s inclusion in the starting 15, Ashleigh Baxter and Louise Galvin have also returned to the squad from the sevens set-up.
As they aim to make it three wins from three on home soil, Ireland forwards coach Jeff Carter feels Moloney and Baxter (if introduced) can add an extra dimension to the team’s play.
“Cliodhna had been involved against the French and had been carrying a bit of a shoulder injury against the Italians, so it’s great to have her back. She’s a very robust player, very good around the park and she plays almost like another six or seven. Very physical and confrontational,” Carter said.
“Ashleigh is a tough girl. She plays like a real seven. She likes to get herself in over the ball to jackal and she’s vivacious. That energy is phenomenal.”
Though Scotland are still searching for a maiden win in this year’s Championship, they are able to welcome back captain Lisa Martin - who was ruled out of their 43-8 defeat to England two weeks ago because of an eye problem.
K Flood; M Williams, K Fitzhenry, S Naoupu, H Tyrrell; N Briggs, A Hughes; L Peat, C Moloney, L Lyons, A McDermott, O Fitzsimons, C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick.
C O’Connor, L Feely, F Reidy, A Baxter, E McMahon, N Cronin, M Claffey, L Galvin.
C Rollie; L Musgrove, L Thomson, H Nelson, H Smith; L Martin, S Law; S McMillan, L Skeldon, M Kennedy, E Wassell, D McCormack, S Bonar, R Malcolm, J Konkel.
J Rettie, K Dougan, L Smith, S Cattigan, L McMillan, J Maxwell, L Harris, R Lloyd.