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Irish ready to step up grand slam quest

By Cian Tracey

It's difficult to know how much, if anything at all, can be read into Ireland Women’s 22-14 defeat to Wales in Donnybrook six and a half weeks ago.

In a non-cap hit-out, Tom Tierney used the game as a chance to blood new players and test different combinations.

Three victories into the Six Nations — grand slam hopes alive and well — the Ireland team has a more settled look to it.

Ireland will arrive at the Cardiff Arms Park tomorrow morning full of confidence and while they won’t be focusing too much on what happened in January, neither will the Welsh camp.

“Ireland have been building momentum for the last couple of seasons,” said Wales head coach Rowland Phillips.

“They are an all-round team who are able to adapt their game-plan well, but we’re only focused on getting back to playing to our strengths.”

On paper, Ireland are a superior outfit but that may count for little against an emotionally charged Welsh side who will be playing in memory of their late team-mate Elli Norkett, who tragically lost her life in a recent car accident.

Ireland, though, are in good fettle.

Lindsay Peat and hooker Leah Lyons have really come into their own in recent weeks and have added plenty of power to the Ireland front-row.

Sophie Spence looks like she is nearing her best form again after injury, while the availability of Sevens trio Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller and Hannah Tyrrell has seriously strengthened Tierney’s hand for tomorrow’s crunch clash.

“The squad has been developing nicely over the championship,” said Tierney.

“While it was great to get the win against France, we haven’t dwelt on that and have firmly turned our attention to the challenge the Welsh will give us,” he added.

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