Fitzpatrick back after rewarding French stay
When Paula Fitzpatrick opted to take up Toulouse's one-year offer, she jumped at the opportunity to broaden her horizons - but as beneficial as it was, deep down she knew that she'd be back in Ireland for what is a huge season for her country.
The powerful No 8 and Munster's Heather O'Brien made the move to France but given that women's rugby in the country hasn't yet turned professional, a return to her lecturing job in Carlow IT made sense.
"Bills have to be paid," Fitzpatrick said.
"I want to advance my career myself as well. It was a great experience, I really enjoyed it and I got a sense of that professional atmosphere.
"I think it gave me a different perspective on how rugby is played. I'm not sure if it made me a better player, but say over here we're very focused on structure and game plans and over there it's all about 'play as you feel', and it's about skill level and things like that.
"They'd play from when they're maybe six years old which isn't what we're used to here. In the past, people would have taken up the game kind of at college level and things like that.
"Over there, players tend to be a lot more skilful individually - forwards and backs and everything. I suppose that kind of freedom that they play with was a new perspective for me."
Fitzpatrick is crucial to Ireland's Six Nations hopes and indeed the World Cup this year, and even more so because regular captain Niamh Briggs remains sidelined through injury.
Last week's bonus-point win in Scotland was far from flawless and despite the fact that Ireland's time together as a squad was limited this week, Fitzpatrick, who will again captain the side against Italy tomorrow, is confident they can maintain their winning start to the campaign.
"They say that about teams, if you can get out a performance even with playing below your standards, that's a huge thing you can take from it.
"Things didn't click from an overall sense but if you look at things like the set piece, that obviously went very well, the scrum was quite dominant, and in the lineout we had a lot of joy at as well."
Italy - M Furlan; M Sillari, M Cioffi, S Stefan, M Magatti; B Rigoni, Z Barattin; E Cucchiella, M Bettoni, L Gai; F Severin, A Trevisan; L Cannarano, I Locatelli, E Giordano. Reps: M Ferrari, G Giacomoli, M Este, E Pillotti, I Arrighetti, C Salvadego, S Folli, P Zangirolami.
Ireland - M Coyne; H Tyrrell, J Murphy, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, A Hughes; L Peat, L Lyons, A Egan; E Anthony, M-L Reilly; C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick (capt). Reps: J Finlay, I Van Staden, C O'Connor, C Cooney, S Spence, M Healy, C McLaughlin, E Considine.
Italy v Ireland, Stadio Tommaso Fattori, tomorrow 1.0, Live RTÉ 2