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Naoupu says women can bounce back


Ireland's Sene Naoupu in action. Photo: Getty Images

Ireland's Sene Naoupu in action. Photo: Getty Images

Ireland's Sene Naoupu in action. Photo: Getty Images

Sene Naoupu is back on Irish soil following a season with Harlequins, where she got a taste of what life is like across the pond.

In recent years, England have set the standard for women's rugby, and while the RFU came in for some criticism for their decision to withdraw their professional contracts and refocus their attention on Sevens, the union did set up a new domestic league, which they hope will continue to drive the upward trend.

Closer to home, the All-Ireland League (AIL) is lagging behind, but Naoupu insists that she came into the Six Nations on the back of a high-quality interpro series.

"Naturally, it's going to be different, with the amount of resources that the IRFU have compared to the RFU," the Ireland centre said. "So in terms of their new franchise system, with the new club competition, processes and player pathways, it's absolutely fantastic over there.

"Coming from there to Ireland, it was also very, very pleasing for me, to come into a club competition that's absolutely getting there. We just need to do something with the club structures.

"It's really important that we build off club structures here. There is important grassroots work already being done here. My point is that, I suppose from a club and interpro perspective, it was probably one of the best interpro series I've played in - level-wise. So that speaks for itself. To come into the national set-up now, that's getting better."

Ireland are looking to bounce back from defeat to France last week when they welcome Italy to Donnybrook this afternoon (1.0). Adam Griggs' side will need major improvements if they are to get back on track, but Naoupu insists Ireland have enough quality to do so.

"There has been loads of positives taken from the last six months, even in the last game against France. Everyone has just been training so well and pushing for places. As individuals, we're becoming a bit more smarter with the game."

Ireland: K Flood; M Williams, K Fitzhenry, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Briggs, A Hughes; L Peat, C Moloney, F Reidy; P Fitzpatrick, N Fryday; A Caplice, C Molloy, C Griffin (capt). Reps: L Lyons, L Feely, C O'Connor, O Fitzsimons, E McMahon, N Cronin, M Claffey, C McLaughlin.

Italy: M Furlan; S Stefan, M Sillari, B Rigoni; J Busato, S Barattin (capt); E Ricci, M Bettoni, L Gai; V Ruzza, G Duca; B Veronese, I Locatelli, I Arrighetti. Reps: S Turani, G Durante, M Merlo, M Pagani, G Franco, A Corbucci, A M Gizzi, A Muzzo.

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Referee: T Baker (Hong Kong)

Ireland v Italy RTé 2, 1.0pm