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Home / News / Winning finale must be only focus for Ireland

Winning finale must be only focus for Ireland

Ireland host Scotland in Belfast this afternoon looking to sign off their Guinness Women’s Six Nations campaign on a high.

Already this year’s renewal is better than last season’s wooden spoon championship.

An emphatic win over Wales in round three franked the team’s progress under their new head coach Scott Bemand.

There was another victory there for the taking when Italy came to the RDS but a failure to execute cost Ireland dearly, with Bemand’s side currently fifth in the standings.

The opening-day loss to France, and last weekend’s 88-10 hammering at the hands of England belong to a different category with both of those sides operating on another level.

Indeed, the Red Roses’ game later today against France – where they are looking for a fifth successive Grand Slam – may illustrate that England are on another level still to France.

Ireland celebrate Enya Breen’s crucial try back in 2022

That’s not Ireland’s concern today and even if there is more on the line than four or five points, or a third or fourth-place finish, they must solely focus on getting over the line against a Scottish outfit that won last year’s fixture 36-10.

For the record, should Ireland finish in third – which would happen if they win with a bonus point and better Italy’s points difference – it would mean World Cup qualification and promotion to WXV1. They are currently two points behind the Italians.

A win of any description for Scotland would seal third place. With Italy starting against bottom of the table Wales at 12.15pm, Ireland will know their target before they kick off.

The downside of the upside is that qualifying for the top tier of WXV would mean fixtures against England, France and one of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA.

It’s probably not what Ireland need at this point in their development, though a third-place finish would have a nice look to it after last year’s struggles.

“We’re not putting that pressure on ourselves for the weekend,” said back row Brittany Hogan.

“It’s just looking to go and perform against Scotland if it happens, it would be great, it would mean loads.”

Hoping for Wales to cause an upset against Italy in Cardiff, or for the Azzurri to scrape a narrow win minus the bonus point would give Ireland a more realistic target against the Scots.

Outside of England and France, winning bonus points don’t come easy in the Six Nations.

Ireland’s five-point haul against Wales was their first since April 2022 against Italy, while the Italians are the only other side, other than France and England, to register a winning bonus point this season, that coming in the 27-21 success over Ireland.

Whatever the system failures against England last weekend, Ireland hummed against Wales; passes stuck, the cohesion was there, the kicking game was excellent and they took their chances.

Co-captain Sam Monaghan, absent in London, returns today and her experience and ball-carrying ability will be vital.

Aoife Wafer has been Ireland’s player of the championship

The lock is one of three changes with centre Enya Breen, the match-winner when the sides last met in Belfast two years ago, coming in for Aoife Dalton and full-back Méabh Deely replacing Lauren Delany.

While Ireland welcome back one of their big players, Scotland must battle without Chloe Rollie, the experienced full-back is suspended after being sent off against Italy last weekend for a dangerous clear-out.

Scotland boss Bryan Easson, makes four changes in total. Meryl Smith replaces Rollie, while wing Coreen Grant and lock Emma Wassell return.

Hooker Lana Skeldon was withdrawn yesterday through injury and is replaced by Elis Martin. That forces a reshuffle with Molly Wright dropping to the bench alongside Lisa Cockburn and Leah Bartlett now starting at loosehead.

They will be greatly boosted, however, by the manner of last week’s win in Parma.

Emma Orr and Rollie scored tries in the final 20 minutes and they held out against a late Italy surge to win their eighth match is their last 10 outings.

It’s a run that has seen the visitors move up to sixth in the world rankings, four places above today’s hosts.

Béibhinn Parsons scored Ireland’s fifth against Wales

There was no opportunity for Bébhinn Parsons to come off her wing last week, but it was a useful tool against Wales, keeping their opponents guessing and helping to open up the defence.

Another helping of that this afternoon along with the awareness of out-half Dannah O’Brien’s kicking game would be welcome.

Ireland’s ace in the pack is Aoife Wafer, a contender for Six Nations player of the tournament, and the back row’s showing today could have a huge say in the outcome.


IRELAND v SCOTLAND: All you need to know


Scotland, who have lost 14 of 21 Six Nations meetings with Ireland, come with plenty of incentive, too.

“For us, we are pretty pleased with where we are at and Wednesday was a full training day with a lot of clarity in there as we expect it to be physical on Saturday and we want to be ready,” Scotland front row Wright said.

“While we have been happy with some parts of our performances so far, ideally this weekend you’ll see us in fifth gear and we can really go for it

“Ireland are going to come in hungry, they are going to come in hard and we need to be prepared for that.”

The hosts are hoping for another record crowd and they’ll need every edge they can get.

It’s almost too close to call but home advantage may swing it Ireland’s way.

Verdict: Ireland


Ireland: Méabh Deely; Katie Corrigan, Eve Higgins, Enya Breen, Béibhinn Parsons; Dannah O’Brien, Aoibheann Reilly; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Christy Haney; Dorothy Wall, Sam Monaghan (co-capt); Aoife Wafer, Edel McMahon (co-capt), Brittany Hogan.

Replacements: Clíodhna Moloney, Niamh O’Dowd, Sadhbh McGrath, Fiona Tuite, Shannon Ikahihifo, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Aoife Dalton, Katie Heffernan.

Scotland: Meryl Smith; Coreen Grant, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson; Molly Wright, Lana Skeldon; Christine Belisle; Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan; Rachel Malcolm (capt), Alex Stewart, Evie Gallagher.

Replacements: Elis Martin, Leah Bartlett, Elliann Clarke, Eva Donaldson, Rachel McLachlan, Mairi McDonald, Cieron Bell, Nicole Flynn.

Referee: Natarsha Ganley (NZR)

Listen to the RTÉ Rugby podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Watch Ireland v Scotland in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations from 2pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app and listen to live commentary on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1

Watch Dragons v Connacht (Saturday 7.35pm) in the BKT United Rugby Championship on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.


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