Ireland’s women aiming to finish on a high against Scotland

Tom Tierney brings more experienced personnel back for final Six Nations game

Women's Six Nations: Ireland v Scotland, Donnybrook, Sunday, 1pm

Not a memorable campaign as the dethroned champions can only, realistically, finish third in the Six Nations table. Another 73-3 return is unlikely against Scotland but Ireland need to protect the points advantage (23) over Wales to avoid their worst placing since 2008.

With that in mind, coach Tom Tierney has parked many inexperienced players who combined for a highly disjointed 14-3 victory over Italy at Donnybrook last Sunday. Tierney has spoken about the need to add squad depth with a World Cup on home soil next year but last week's performance did nothing for the promotion of women's rugby.

So, Nora Stapleton and Larissa Muldoon renew their halfback partnership, with 71 combined caps, as Niamh Briggs reverts from centre to fullback.

The back row also sees the much needed return of Irish exiles Claire Molloy and Paula Fitzpatrick.

Ali Miller, available due to a break in the Sevens circuit, remains on the left wing but Sophie Spence is benched, perhaps after her punishing run at number eight against Italy.

Points cushion

Ireland must be keen to add to their four-try haul from this season. They have conceded the same amount.

The points cushion over Wales does allow Briggs’s side to focus on winning above all else but some form of entertainment is owed to the crowd of just over a thousand that makes the effort for an early lunchtime kick-off on a Sunday. Otherwise that number will dip into the hundreds.

Scotland are patiently building on the ruins of that heavy defeat Ireland inflicted upon them at home at the end of last season with Shade Munro arriving from his assistant coaching role at Glasgow.

“Since starting the job until now, I’ve noticed massive improvements,” said Munro.

“At the beginning of the season there were lots of things we needed to work on and one of those was confidence. It was breaking it right down, not being too specific and making them happy at training but working hard at training. We haven’t won any games yet but the gap between how much they have lost by has reduced considerably. There are less mistakes in attacks and contact skills have got better.”

That’s the problem with the women’s game at this level at present – far too many unforced errors. Ireland should address that here.

The victory is also important as Wales have not finished above them since 2009 while Ireland have not slipped below third place since 2008. That standard, at least, should be upheld.

IRELAND: Niamh Briggs (Munster, capt); Liz Burke (Munster), Claire McLaughlin (Ulster), Sene Naoupu (Connacht), Alison Miller (Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Skewen); Ruth O'Reilly (Connacht), Zoe Grattage (Munster), Ailis Egan (Leinster); Elaine Anthony (Munster); Ciara Cooney (Leinster); Ciara Griffin (Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol), Paula Fitzpatrick (Toulouse).

Replacements: Cliodhna Moloney (Leinster), Fiona Hayes (Munster), Fiona Reidy (Munster), Orla Fitzsimons (Leinster), Sophie Spence (Leinster), Mary Healy (Connacht), Aine Donnelly (Leinster), Kim Flood (Leinster).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent