Standing on the cusp of a Grand Slam facing a side you beat 40-10 last year can be a precarious perch.
Everyone is expecting victory over Italy. The homecoming is already planned. The pressure is on for the first time in the tournament.
Women’s rugby is being placed ona pedestal it has never seen before. That areas was the preserve of the English women’s side who had won seven Six Nations in-a-row coming into the event, six of them by clean sweeps.
The English underestimated their neighbours this year by allowing 17 players concentrate on the sevens game ahead of the World Cup in June in Moscow, including the entire first-choice back division.
But until Ireland beat them and backed it up with a victory over France last weekend the women in green have been able to play without the pressure of expectation.
“We know it’s a huge task ahead of us this weekend an there is a lot of expectation on our shoulders but at the end of the day it’s a game of rugby that we have to go out to win and it will be treated as another international match that the team are well up for,” said manager Philip Doyle.
“Italy has shown in their past matches that they are very resilient and without doubt will be a huge task for our girls to break them down.”
Doyle has made two changes to the line up with Niamh Kavanagh and Grace Davitt returning.
Davitt has been named in the centre replacing Jenny Murphy who picked up a hamstring injury in the game against France while Kavanagh comes in on the wing for Ashleigh Baxter.
“It’s a testament to Ross Callaghan’s strength and conditioning of the squad that we have got this far without injury,” said Doyle.
“Unfortunately Jenny Murphy picked up a knock in the last game and she is missing this weekend but it’s great that we have the depth in the squad that we can call on Grace Davitt to easily slip into the starting lineup.”
Ireland women v Italy: N Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), N Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), L Cantwell (Richmond/Exiles), G Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), A Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht), N Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), L Muldoon (UWIC/Exiles); F Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), G Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), A Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), S Spence (Mowden Park Sharks/Exiles), ML Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), S Fleming (Tralee/Munster), C Molloy (Bristol/Exiles), J Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: SL Kennedy (City of Derry/Ulster), F Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), L Day (Waterloo/Exiles), H O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), L Guest (Highfield/Munster), A Davis (Blackrock College/Ulster), S Huston (Blackrock/Leinster), S Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).
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