Saturday 18 November 2017

Tierney urges Irish to keep focus on Italy

Tom Tierney has made two changes to the Ireland Women's side for today's game against Italy. Photo: Sportsfile
Tom Tierney has made two changes to the Ireland Women's side for today's game against Italy. Photo: Sportsfile

Aisling Crowe

Ireland's women take on Italy in L'Aquila this afternoon hoping to pick up where they left off from their opening-round victory over Scotland in Glasgow.

They left it late against the Scots to claim that bonus-point win and coach Tom Tierney has ensured that his players are well aware of the areas in which they need to improve against Italy today.

It took a late try from centre Jenny Murphy to get Ireland over the line in Glasgow but what pleased Tierney about the performance was the desire and determination shown by the Irish team in securing the bonus-point win.

"It was a very tough encounter last Friday evening in Glasgow. The Scots really put it up to us, and for the players to get that final score when it really mattered, and to come away with the five points from such a tough encounter, is very pleasing."

Tierney has made two changes to the starting 15 with Hannah Tyrrell, who starred in the World Sevens Tournament in Sydney last weekend, coming in to replace Eimear Considine of UL Bohemians, who won her first cap last week, on the right wing.

Highfield's Elaine Anthony is promoted from the bench to partner Marie Louise Reilly in the second-row. Ireland, who were crowned champions in 2015, will be captained in the absence of Niamh Briggs by St Mary's star Paula Fitzpatrick, who brings the extra dimension of her playing experience with Toulouse last year to the side.

Last weekend's game-winning heroine Jenny Murphy is partnered once again in the centre by Sene Naoupu, who also scored against the Scots, while scintillating winger Alison Miller, another of last weekend's try-scorers, once again offers Ireland a potent attacking threat on the left touchline.

Italy come into the game on the back of an opening-round 8-20 loss to Wales in Jesi but the scoreline gives a deceptive view of the match as Wales had to withstand a gritty Italian fightback after taking a strong lead. The speed and elusive running of fullback Manuela Furian brought Italy their only try and their backs, in particular scrum-half Sara Baratin, gave the Welsh plenty to worry about.

Out-half Beatrice Rigoni almost single-handedly beat the Welsh in last year's tournament, one of two victories for Italy in the 2016 competition, so Ireland will be wary of the threat she poses.

Last year's fixture was a tight affair, ending in a 14-3 home success for Ireland and with the last-gasp nature of the win over Scotland still haunting his thoughts, Tierney refuses to allow any sense of complacency surround the outcome of this afternoon's clash.

"The nature of the Six Nations is that there are no easy games, so we'll have to be really focused going into the game this Sunday," he added.

Ireland Women: 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. Replacements: J Finlay, I van Staden, C O'Connor, C Cooney, S Spence, M Healy, C McLaughlin, E Considine.

Italy v Ireland, RTé 2, 1.00pm

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