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Day of destiny for Irish Women

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Head coach Philip Doyle talks to his forwards

Head coach Philip Doyle talks to his forwards

Head coach Philip Doyle talks to his forwards

IRELAND stand on the threshold of yet another step forward for the evolution of women's rugby here with the arrival of this day of destiny against none other than their oldest and fiercest enemy at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris.

For so long, England had been the bearer of bad news for the Irish in the annual thrashings they handed out to the girls in green until the point of no return came two seasons ago.

It was at Ashbourne RFC on February 9 2013 when Ireland laid the second block of their Grand Slam with a thoroughly comprehensive 25-0 whitewash of England.

There were those who tried to suck some of the glory out of their Slam by, rightly, pointing to the fact that England had removed a block of their frontline internationals for the Sevens World Cup.

Proper order would be restored at Twickenham last February when England would play with a full deck at their home of rugby Twickenham.

SHEER

As the troops met on the gain line, the Irish began to take a foothold by sheer force of will, mainly making their doggedness tell in the forwards.

The outcome went the way of the English 17-10. But the small battles won all over the field left Ireland's coach Phillip Doyle convinced they could turn the tables.

Six months later, England stand between Ireland and a coveted place in the World Cup final against either favourites France or Canada, completing a list of three respectable, but not intimidating foes.

For this one, Doyle has turned to the same first 15 that took away New Zealand's unbeatable tag last Tuesday week.

The plan will be simple. Tight-head Ailis Egan will lead the push for dominance in the scrum. Second row Mary Louise Reilly will look to tower at the lineout.

Openside Claire Molloy will seek to destroy clean ruck ball. Sophie Spence, Paula Fitzpatrick and Heather O'Brien will carry the fight in the narrow channels.

The greatest area of concern comes at half-back where Tania Rosser has shown the signs of being out of the game for a long period and Nora Stapleton is inclined to hang on to the pill for too long.

If these two can put a better spin on the ball, centres Grace Davitt and Lynne Cantwell are a well-balanced pair with Jenny Murphy providing Ireland's greatest impact from the wood.

The three outside backs can do damage too, especially the electric Alison Miller, on the left wing, and the powerful of Niamh Briggs from full-back.

The English come with an array of weapons about which there are not too many secrets. The template for their physicality starts and ends with flanker Maggie Alphonsi, perhaps the hardest hitter in the women's game.

Their scrum came under severe pressure against Canada in their final pool match where they were lucky to escape with a 13-all draw. They have a big, bruising pack of forwards who dish out punishment better than they take it. Greet them on the gain line and they are not so impressive.

ADAPTED

The Irish adapted a hard-up defence against New Zealand, returning to a softer press against Kazakhstan. They will need to reboot the blitz.

After that, it could all come down to the place-kicking of Briggs and England's Emily Scarratt in the heat of what is certain to be a blazing battle.

Ireland: N Briggs (Munster); A Baxter (Ulster), L Cantwell (Richmond), G Davitt (Ulster), A Miller (Connacht); N Stapleton (Leinster), T Rosser (Leinster); F Coghlan (Leinster, capt), G Bourke (Munster), A Egan (Leinster), S Spence (Leinster), M-L Reilly (Leinster), P Fitzpatrick (Leinster), C Molloy (Connacht), H O'Brien (Munster).

England: D Waterman; K Merchant, E Scarratt, R Burford, K Wilson; K McLean (capt), L Mason; R Clark, V Fleetwood, S Hemming, T Taylor, J McGilchrist, A Matthews, M Alphonsi, S Hunter.


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