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Ireland can end difficult Six Nations on a decent note by coming back against Scotland

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After a week in which contracts dominated the women’s rugby agenda, it is now up to the Irish players to prove to the doubters that they are on the right track.

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the squad but the experience will stand them in good stead for the future.

With the pitch level at the Kingspan Stadium tonight there is added pressure to deliver against a winless Scotland.

At the start of that six-nation season, Ireland’s goal was three home wins, with trips to France and England likely to show the ever-widening gap. And so it turned out.

An opening-day loss to Wales was disappointing but there was a caveat that the WRU had awarded their players contracts and that improved fitness showed in the end.

Ireland have impressively beaten Italy and with bottom-placed Scotland arriving in Belfast it’s a chance to end on a high note.

Given the disruptions Ireland have faced, whether from Sevens signings or injuries, two wins and a place in mid-table would be a reasonable return.

While this may seem like dead rubber on paper, the stakes are high for Ireland as they seek revenge for Scotland, who ended their chances of qualifying for the World Cup after last year’s win in Parma.

In the old days the squad disbanded after the Six Nations and wouldn’t play in the green jersey again until November if they were lucky, while now hopefully a summer tour to Japan and autumn internationals can be expected before the end of the year.

This means players will be playing for seats on the plane, which sets up well for today’s clash.

As much as the less experienced players learned a lot about what it takes at Test level, Greg McWilliams (inset) and his coaching staff took a lot from a tournament that was full of ups and downs.

McWilliams was again forced to dig deep into his backline depth chart when Vicky Irwin stepped in for her full-back debut.

“Vicky has been with us since our very first camp,” McWilliams said.

“She plays for Sale, I spoke to her coach. She has a good kicking game, she can play 10.

“She deserved a shot, she did very well against Barnhall two weeks ago. I’m excited to see how it develops.”

Irwin’s introduction to the back three means last week’s debutante Molly Scuffil-McCabe moves to the left wing.

Last weekend at Welford Road was a baptism of fire for Scuffil-McCabe but the rail union woman is hoping to show more of her offensive threat in front of the home crowd.

Interestingly, Leah Tarpey, who will be taking her Leaving Cert in the coming weeks, is included in the wider squad this week as McWilliams looks to accelerate the development of the players he hopes will be key players leading up to the 2025 World Cup will . The sight of Scotland will bring back some painful memories of how Ireland fell behind in Italy last year, but visitors have been in a sorry state since.

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Scotland were beaten by Italy last weekend and without their influential No.8 Jade Konkel Ireland should really be aiming for a win here. The return of the fit Sam Monaghan bolsters the Irish pack and with McWilliams opting for a 6-2 split on the bench it suggests he will be looking to take the game to Scotland.

Ireland’s set piece has struggled throughout the campaign but they will be aware that Scotland does not have the same power in the scrum as France and England.

However, the visitors will put up a rigorous test and Ireland will need to ensure they are accurate in their lane and scramble.

Linda Djougang is key to Ireland’s hopes of winning the scrum match, while Edel McMahon and Neve Jones will once again set the tone in defense with their smashing strikes and tireless pace of work.

Nikki Caughey has a chance to remind everyone what she’s capable of as she is recalled at half-time, while Sene Naoupu hopes to redeem her red card in the England defeat with a strong performance.

The sheer quality of England has been taken into account but that cannot be said tonight which is why a win is so important for this Irish side to move forward.

After tremendous effort and many casualties off the pitch, a win is as important to them as it is to the spectators looking for visible progress.

Scotland won’t be a pushover but Ireland lack confidence and can beat them away from home.

Verdict: Ireland

https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/ireland-can-finish-difficult-six-nations-on-a-decent-note-by-getting-one-back-on-scotland-41602213.html Ireland can end difficult Six Nations on a decent note by coming back against Scotland

Fry Electronics Team

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