Ireland are champing at the bit to put all their hard work behind the scenes into practice and fight for the 2021 Women’s Six Nations title, according to stalwart skipper Ciara Griffin.
Adam Griggs’ side haven’t played a competitive match since a 21-7 win over Italy in October in last year’s Championship, a result that marked their third victory from four outings.
Since then, Griffin and her colleagues have been put through their paces in myriad training camps in the absence of on-field action, and the 27-year-old is confident they can now build on the encouraging results they produced during 2020.
And though Ireland must sit out the first weekend of play with their maiden involvement coming at Wales on April 10 before a home clash against France, Griffin is expecting her side to be challenging for top spot in Pool B, and a place in the Super Saturday showpiece.
“We’ve had over 20 training camps and over 60 pitch sessions, plus gym and fitness work on top of that,” said the Munster flanker. “We’ve left no stone unturned, now we just want to go out and play some Test rugby.
“It’s an excellent campaign with the new format in terms of being able to get to the final through the pool, and ultimately that is our aim. We want to earn a place in that showpiece fixture.
“This format is different, but it means that every match is a cup final for us because you need to win every game you play. It’s going to be a very exciting competition and I can’t wait.”
Ireland’s squad contains five uncapped players, with Leinster duo Stacey Flood and Eve Higgins, Munster pair Emily Lane and Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe, as well as IQ Rugby’s Grace Moore, all looking to make their mark on the international stage.
And on top of the addition of those fresh faces, Griffin believes being afforded additional time to work on fine details in the background will stand her side in good stead by the time they get underway in Cardiff.
“We’ve never had so much contact time together, and the girls have been phenomenal – I can’t commend the group enough,” she said.
“One big thing we’ve improved on is our defensive system. [Defence coach] Kieran Hallett has done a lot of work with the group and I think we’ve come on a lot. We’ve worked a lot on our line speed and our work off the ball, as well as playing the expansive game we know we can play.
“The uncapped girls have been in camps previously so they’ve been involved for a long time now. They’re doing brilliantly – they have great attitudes, they’re really eager to learn and they’ve fitted in seamlessly.”
Despite harnessing lofty ambitions of eventually seizing the Women’s Six Nations trophy from the grasp of double defending champions England, Griffin is wary of the threat posed by both of Ireland’s pool opponents, who they will play ahead of the final classification game.
She added: “We can’t control the fixtures. Wales and France are playing on the first weekend which is great for them, but we have a training camp to get ready for the week after which is all we’re focused on.
“I’m not sure what to expect from Wales. We’ll be prepared for them wanting to play some expansive and attacking rugby, but we have to be prepared for all eventualities and make sure all bases are covered. It’s going to be a good contest and I can’t wait for it.
“It was disappointing we couldn’t fulfil the fixture against France last year, so we’re looking forward to playing them this time at Donnybrook. It’s a great pitch, a great surface and we’re looking forward to that one.”