The Irish women’s rugby team return to the scene this of one of their most notable achievements when they take on Scotland this evening at Broadwood Stadium in the opening game of the Six Nations.
Two years ago Ireland scored a facile 73-3 in the final round of games at this venue north of Glasgow to snatch the title from France after both sides finished level on eight points each.
Indeed, it will not be lost on Tom Tierney and his players that these odd years, with Scotland, Wales and Italy away and the big guns in England and France coming to Dublin, presents the best opportunity for glory with the historic Grand Slam being annexed in 2013.
And this, of course, is the opening performance in the biggest year ever for Irish women’s rugby with the World Cup being hosted here in August.
But after a poor November series, albeit against the big guns England, Canada and New Zealand, there is pressure on Ireland to deliver from the outset in this championship with tonight’s game at the home of Clyde FC in Cumbernauld being broadcast live on RTÉ television.
Tierney acknowledged that in itself brings its own pressure but is reflective of the huge strides made in recent years.
The loss of captain Niamh Briggs to injury adds another layer of uncertainty and Tierney doesn’t know what to expect from the Scots on the opening night.
“It’s very difficult to know what the opposition are going to throw at you and Scotland, in front of their home crowd, will be looking to give their fans something to get excited about.
“We need to be focused and the players have performed really well in the camps in recent weeks, so now it’s their chance to transfer what they’ve been doing in training into the international arena,” said the former Irish scrum-half.
There is only one debutant in the starting fifteen, with Railway Union’s Ailsa Hughes coming in at scrum-half to partner the experienced Nora Stapleton. But four more players could make their Irish debuts with newcomers Jennie Finlay, Ilse Van Baden, Ciara O’Connor and Eimear Considine named on the bench.
Last season Ireland won three and lost two in a third-place finish but Tierney and his side know that if they are to crown World Cup year with a third Six Nations triumph, then victory this evening in Scotland is paramount to get the campaign off to the best possible start.
The game which kicks-off at 6.30pm will be broadcast live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.
Meanwhile, director of rugby Anthony Eddy has named a 12-woman side to compete in the Sydney sevens tournament this weekend, with Ireland in a pool with Fiji, Brazil and hosts Australia.
Lucy Mulhall will captain a side squad which shows three changes to the one that competed in the first stage of the 2016/17 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Dubai in December.
IRELAND WOMEN (v SCOTLAND):
M Coyne (Galwegians / Connacht); N Kavanagh (UL Bohemians / Munster), J Murphy (Old Belvedere / Leinster), S Naoupu (Aylesford Bulls), A Miller (Old Belvedere / Connacht); N Stapleton (Old Belvedere / Leinster), A Hughes (Railway Union / Leinster); L Peat (Railway Union / Leinster), L Lyons (Highfield / Munster), A Egan (Old Belvedere / Leinster); O Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s College / Leinster), ML Reilly (Old Belvedere / Leinster); C Griffin (UL Bohemians / Munster), C Molloy (Bristol / Connacht), P Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College / Leinster).
J Finlay (Old Belvedere / Leinster), I Van Staden (Cooke / Ulster), C O Connor (Galwegians / Connacht), E Anthony (Highfield / Munster), N Fryday (Tullamore / Connacht), M Healy (Galwegians / Connacht), C Mc Laughlin (Cooke / Ulster), E Considine (UL Bohemians / Munster).
IRELAND WOMEN’S 7s SQUAD FOR SYDNEY:
A Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), C Blackmore (St. Mary’s College RFC/Munster), K Fitzhenry (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), K Flood (Railway Union/Leinster), S Flood (Railway Union/Leinster), L Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster), L Mulhall (Rathdrum RFC/Leinster), E Murphy (Railway Union/Leinster), AL Murphy-Crowe (Railway Union/Munster), H Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster), S Vaughan (Railway Union/Leinster), M Williams (Ireland Sevens Programme).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved