It is not long now until Adam Griggs’ Ireland women’s side opens up their calendar with the visit of Scotland to Donnybrook but the Six Nations has, for once, been relegated down the list of priorities.
The team’s eight-placed finish at the 2017 World Cup has left them facing a qualification group for the 2021 edition next September. Scotland, Italy and, probably, Spain will join them.
The winner will earn a place automatically and the runner-up a slot in a repechage.
It’s inconceivable that Ireland, semi-finalists in 2013 and Grand Slam champions that same year, wouldn’t be in New Zealand when the 2021 tournament kicks off so Sene Naoupu makes no bones about the order of importance.
“The core motivation and drive for us is World Cup qualification.
“Certainly the Six Nations is important to us from a development and performance point of view.
“We want the winning results that we have worked so hard for,” said the veteran centre.
It's actually an exciting season ahead for us, including a summer series as well before the qualification series in September.
A shortage of competitive games, so often a bugbear for this team, won’t be an issue this year but old annoyances remain. Where the summer series will be played and who the opponents will be are questions still to be answered.
Naoupu isn’t the type to bicker or moan about that sort of stuff. She has been relentlessly upbeat about the side’s future despite the downward spiral in results through a difficult transition period. Ireland won just one Six Nations game last year. It was their worst performance in the tournament since 2006 but Naoupu spoke about this squad being “ on the verge of something special this season” after last week’s training camp in Wales.
A 22-12 defeat of Wales at The Vale in a virtual training run brought the curtain down on that trip and they gather for another working weekend in the days to come before the visit of Scotland.
Grigg described the performance as “scrappy” and it seems there was good and bad to be taken from it.
The win itself won’t enter any history books but it’s value shouldn’t be overlooked for a side that has experienced so much player turnover and one which has managed just the one victory, against Scotland in last year’s Championship, in their last ten 10 games.
“It’s always nice to win, and it’s important for us to build confidence in the team because part of this process is building towards this first game against Scotland,” said Naoupu.
“And it was a positive in terms of our attack play, and defensively, but also some work-ons.”
Leinster rugby player Sene Naoupu who 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.