Ireland target first competitive win in year in Women’s Six Nations opener

Forwards coach McGinnis believes side is primed for a big performance

The Ireland women's rugby team will seek their first competitive win in just under 12 months when they welcome Scotland to Donnybrook for a Six Nations opener on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 1pm).

Adam Griggs's side last tasted victory on February 8th of last year – a bonus-point triumph against the Scots in Glasgow. They subsequently suffered consecutive Championship reversals at the hands of Italy, France and Wales before also losing out to the latter in a November Series international.

It has been a difficult transition since the 2017 World Cup for this side, who have recorded just three wins in 13 games during that period. Nevertheless, forwards coach Steve McGinnis believes they are primed for a big performance in their maiden encounter of 2020.

“It’s the opening game of the Six Nations, so both teams are out to win. They’re not going to come over here and roll over,” McGinnis said of Scotland.

“They’re going to be competitive and want to make it a challenge. We feel we’re up to that challenge. We’ve trained really well. We feel we’re in a really strong position to go out and not just compete, but perform. Hopefully get a win.”

Absence

Ireland will be slightly hamstrung for the visit of Scotland due to the absence of Munster duo Eimear Considine and Enya Breen through injury. However, winger Aoife Doyle and hooker Cliodhna Moloney are back in the fold for their first Six Nations starts since 2015 and 2018 respectively.

“It’s good to have these girls [Doyle and Moloney] back. They’re talented rugby players. Just because they haven’t been involved for a small while doesn’t mean they forget it. It’s a bit like riding a bike. They’ve been there, done that,” McGinnis added.

“They’ve had to earn their place as well. It’s not just a case of bringing players in. They’ve had to train with the group and prove themselves to be starting players. They’ve done that.”

Follow a lengthy spell within the Sevens programme, Doyle takes her place in the Irish back-three alongside Lauren Delany and Galway teenager Beibhinn Parsons. Sene Naoupu and Michelle Claffey rekindle a familiar midfield partnership, while Ellen Murphy is given the nod at outhalf.

Dismissed

The Gloucester-Hartpury star is one of five English-based players in the starting line-up with Lauren Delany, Moloney, Edel McMahon and Anna Caplice also plying their rugby trades in the Tyrrells Premier 15s.

Tighthead prop Lyons is a clubmate of Caplice at Harlequins and takes her place among the replacements. Railway Union pair Dorothy Wall and Claire Keohane are in line to make their Ireland debuts off the bench.

Despite finishing bottom in last year’s Six Nations, Scotland will not be dismissed lightly. After shipping a number of heavy defeats to their Celtic cousins, they finally gained the upper hand at Donnybrook in the 2018 Championship.

This will be their first game under the stewardship of former Ireland head coach Philip Doyle, who will be eager for his new charges to address their own recent slump in form.

IRELAND: L Delany; A Doyle, S Naoupu, M Claffey, B Parsons; E Murphy, K Dane; L Peat, C Moloney, L Djougang; A McDermott, N Fryday; C Griffin, E McMahon, A Caplice. Replacements: V Dabanovich O'Mahony, L Feely, L Lyons, C Cooney, D Wall, N Cronin, C Keohane, L Sheehan.

SCOTLAND: C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, M McDonald; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, M Forsyth; E Wassell, S Bonar; R Malcolm, R McLachlan, J Konkel. Replacements: M Wright, P Muzambe, L Cockburn, S Cattigan, L McMillan, S Law, E Tonkin, A Wallace.