Adam Griggs believes a strong week of preparation will stand Ireland in good stead ahead of their crucial Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifier clash against Italy on Sunday.
Last weekend saw Ireland’s qualification hopes for next year’s tournament suffer a setback against Spain, who defeated Griggs’ side 8-7 in a tightly contested affair.
And Griggs has responded to the loss by making four changes to his starting XV for the Sunday showdown against Italy in Parma – who Ireland beat 25-5 last time the two faced off in April during the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.
Captained by Ciara Griffin, Laura Feely, Sam Monaghan, Edel McMahon and Eve Higgins are all handed starts as Ireland look to keep their automatic qualification dream alive.
Centre Higgins’ return to the Irish midfield sees her restore her partnership with Leinster teammate Sene Naoupu, with the rest of the back line remaining unchanged from the loss to Spain.
Eimear Considine, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Beibhinn Parsons form a strong back three unit while Ulster scrum half Kathryn Dane partners Stacey Flood at fly-half.
In the forwards, prop Feely is handed a start, linking up with hooker Cliodhna Moloney and Linda Djougang to make-up the front row.
After making her debut against Spain, Monaghan packs down in the second row for her first Test start alongside Nichola Fryday while McMahon’s inclusion at openside sees captain Griffin move back to number eight.
Munster’s Dorothy Wall starts on the blindside flanker, making up the final piece of the back row.
Griggs said: “After a difficult result last weekend, we have collectively put the head down this week, conducted honest reviews and identified the areas we need to improve.
“We have implemented and executed those improvements in training and that gives us confidence going into Sunday.
“Italy will present a challenge, particularly with a home crowd behind them, but we are familiar with their threats and have left no stone unturned in our preparations for this game.”
Ireland team to face Italy:
15. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster) – 19 caps
14. Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster) – 3 caps
13. Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster) – 3 caps
12. Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster) – 42 caps
11. Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Blackrock College/Connacht) – 12 caps
10. Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster) – 4 caps
9. Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster) – 14 caps
1. Laura Feely (Blackrock College/Connacht) – 20 caps
2. Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby) – 27 caps
3. Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster) – 13 caps
4. Nichola Fryday (Blackrock College/Connacht) – 19 caps
5. Sam Monaghan (Wasps/IQ Rugby) – 1 cap
6. Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster) – 8 caps
7. Edel McMahon (Wasps/IQ Rugby) – 10 caps
8. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemian/Munster)(Captain) – 37 caps
16. Neve Jones (Malone/Ulster) – 4 caps
17. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster) – 35 caps
18. Leah Lyons (Sale/IQ Rugby) – 27 caps
19. Brittany Hogan (DCU/Old Belvedere/Ulster) – 5 caps
20. Claire Molloy (Wasps/IQ Rugby) – 71 caps
21. Emily Lane (Blackrock College/Munster) – 4 caps
22. Enya Breen (UL Bohemian/Munster) – 7 caps
23. Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby) – 15 caps