It could be another historic breakthrough weekend for the Ireland Women as they chase their first ever Triple Crown against Scotland and qualification for the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
The Ireland Women’s team to play their Scottish counterparts at Lasswade RFC on Saturday has been named.
Head coach Philip Doyle has kept faith with the starting line-up and replacements that overcame England 25-0 in their last outing of the Championship a fortnight ago.
Speaking ahead of the game, Doyle said: “We are really looking forward to this weekend, it’s all about meeting the standards we set out against England. We have named the same team as we are looking for consistency now to our game.
“Our focus for this Six Nations campaign hasn’t changed which is to qualify for the Women’s Rugby World Cup and a win this weekend will bring us closer to that.”
He added: “Undoubtedly Scotland are formidable opponents. While results may not be going their way, they have strength that no other team has and we are certainly not underestimating them.”
Meanwhile, after being narrowly edged out by Italy on an 8-0 scoreline, the Scotland Women’s team are looking to build on that improved performance when they host table toppers Ireland.
The match not only marks the midpoint of this season’s Championship but also the 20th anniversary of Scotland Women’s first ever fixture, also against Irish opposition, on Valentine’s Day 1993 which the Scots won 10-0.
While many members of the original 1993 team will gather at Lasswade RFC for a reunion event, the focus is firmly on Saturday’s match and putting in a winning performance against the high-flying Irish.
The selected Scottish side sees lock Becca Parker move from the bench to the starting line-up and back rower Kelly Shields has been added to the reserves for a potential first cap.
Ireland’s Fiona Coghlan said: “The Irish Women’s team started 20 years ago and every year there’s been significant improvements. In the last number of years under the IRFU, we’ve got significantly stronger.
“Our primary aim going into the tournament was qualification for the Women’s Rugby World Cup (next year). Qualification is based on the last two years’ Six Nations results, so a win this weekend would guarantee our World Cup place.
“On top of that, we are looking at the Triple Crown but we haven’t paid too much attention to that. Going into any game, you’re just looking for a win.
“We know if we play to our game-plan, we will win it. Obviously you always want to win silverware and if that was on the cards as well it would be brilliant. We’re confident, but we have to continue to produce week in, week out.”
Scotland’s Karen Findlay (Scotland Women) - “Ireland had a fantastic win at home against England and undoubtedly, given the rugby they have played, are deserving of sitting top of the table. They’ve been building season on season to achieve that kind of result, so fair play to them.
“We are in no doubt we have another huge challenge this weekend so it will be nice to revisit Lasswade with such a great home crowd support.
“That said, the response by our team in the Italy match was a big step in the right direction and we were unlucky (to lose 8-0), given the territory and pressure. But pressure has to be finished off. So we will start from that basis and build.”
SCOTLAND WOMEN: Steph Johnston (RHC Cougars); Annabel Sergeant (Richmond), Sarah Dixon (RHC Cougars), Lisa Ritchie (Carlisle), Megan Gaffney (Hillhead Jordanhill); Tanya Griffith (RHC Cougars), Louise Dalgliesh (RHC Cougars); Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill), Sarah Quick (Murrayfield Wanderers), Tracey Balmer (Worcester), Lindsay Wheeler (Richmond), Becca Parker (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jade Konkel (Hillhead Jordanhill), Tess Forsberg (Richmond), Susie Brown (Richmond) (capt).
Replacements: Beth Dickens (Murrayfield Wanderers), Suzanne McKerlie-Hex (Murrayfield Wanderers), Nikki McLeod (Morgan), Bridget Millar-Mills (Worcester), Kelly Shields (Murrayfield Wanderers), Sarah Law (Murrayfield Wanderers), Laura Steven (Murrayfield Wanderers), Leanne Neary (RHC Cougars).
IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exiles), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exiles); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Mowden Park Sharks/Exiles), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Exiles), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry/Ulster), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), Lauren Day (Waterloo/Exiles), Leigh Dargan (Saracens/Exile), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Amy Davis (Blackrock College/Ulster), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Referee: Simon Rees (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Alex Pratt, Brian Darling (both Scotland)