Boost for ladies as Six Nations clash fixed for Aviva
Ireland's Grand Slam women have been handed a significant boost ahead of their 2014 title defence after the IRFU confirmed that the Six Nations tie against Italy will take place in the Aviva Stadium.
Appropriately enough, March 8 will be International Women's Day when the home of Irish rugby throws its gates open for the first time in 132 years to a female team.
Yesterday, as Ireland coach Philip Doyle unveiled his squad for the competition his side clinched in Milan in March, the IRFU confirmed the details of a 'Super Saturday' double header -- the men also play Italy -- after weeks of anticipation within the women's game.
"Playing in the Aviva stadium is sure to be one of hopefully many highlights of the 2014 campaign and I know that the team will do their very best to give the crowd a great display of rugby," said Doyle, who included nine uncapped players in the squad.
"Selecting a squad is always hard and this year has to be without doubt the hardest yet," added Doyle.
"Selection has been based on the players' form throughout the AIL matches, including the English premiership matches where a lot of the exiles players are playing their rugby, and the inter-pro series.
"Some new faces have made this year's squad which is always a good sign that the competition and standards are rising still."
Kick-off times and ticketing information for the fixture will be announced in early 2014.
Ireland open their campaign with a home fixture against Scotland on Friday, January 31 in their traditional home venue at Ashbourne RFC.
Meanwhile, the IRFU also confirmed the appointment of Gillian McDarby as national women's Sevens team manager as they aim to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The IRFU have a budget of €2.5m to spend on the Olympic cycle but they have insisted that they will not be open to a male team.
At Cycling Ireland, McDarby was responsible for athlete performance analysis, delivery and monitoring of athlete training programmes and working with coaches on athlete development as part of the Talent 2020 initiative.
McDarby joins head coach Jon Skurr's back-room team with immediate effect.
"I am delighted to be joining the IRFU's Women's Sevens set up at what is a very exciting time for the sport in Ireland," said the 39-year-old from Sandyford, Dublin.
"It is a great opportunity for this group to achieve something special over the coming years."