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Ireland are out to prove point in Women's Six Nations opener

By Cian Tracey

By the time Ireland's World Cup clash against France rolled around, there was a sense of optimism in the air - albeit of a cautious nature.

Having eked out a win against Australia in their opener, Ireland struggled badly against Japan, but in the end just about got the job done.

The third game against France was when they were supposed to hit full throttle, but instead the weaknesses on display in their opening two games were ruthlessly exposed, and the hosts' campaign spiralled out of control.

Fast-forward five and a half months, and Ireland are about to embark on a new journey under the stewardship of Adam Griggs.

The Kiwi could hardly have asked for a tougher opening assignment as he takes his side to Toulouse to face a France side, who after beating Ireland last August, went on to finish third at the World Cup. But the mood in the camp has been lifted by Griggs' fresh approach. Having spent the last two seasons in charge of Leinster, he knows the landscape of the women's game well.

The appointment of Mike Ross as scrum coach is a shrewd move and has been welcomed from all quarters.

A victory over Wales in a warm-up game a fortnight ago restored the winning mentality that was badly damaged at the World Cup, but an altogether tougher task lies ahead this evening in the Six Nations opener.

"We were delighted to get the win," said Griggs.

"There were certainly some patches of brilliance from us. We scored some really nice tries and the ladies put in a decent performance.

"But like everything in rugby, we had plenty of work-ons. All in all, it was a really good start, which was positive for us.

"It's (mood) very positive. I think everyone is rectifying what happened at the World Cup. We're looking to move forward." Having impressed on the Sevens circuit, Megan Williams has been drafted into the set-up and she will make her debut on the wing.

And Niamh Briggs's long-awaited return is a huge boost.

"Her experience is going to be invaluable to us," Griggs said.

The long game must be in sight as Ireland rebuild under Griggs. A positive performance will be the order of the day, even if victory may be beyond them.

Verdict: France

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