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Irish girls must put emotion aside to preserve Grand Slam bid

By Cian Tracey

Managing the occasion this morning will be just as important as the game itself as Ireland Women look to keep alive their hopes of repeating 2013's Grand Slam success.

On the pitch, Wales' campaign has been inconsistent, off it they have had to deal with the horrendous tragedy of the passing of their team-mate Elli Norkett.

It has been a hugely difficult time for the Welsh squad and several special tributes are planned ahead of kick-off at the Cardiff Arms Park.

The atmosphere is sure to be highly emotional and while Ireland will look to play their part, they will also be mindful of getting caught up in it.

"It's going to be difficult," lock Marie Louise Reilly admitted. "We've sent a message of support over to the Wales Rugby Union because rugby is a family.

"It's something that as players we need to acknowledge, but we also need to use that as an opportunity to be part of what can be a great match and a great atmosphere and something that will hopefully do her proud."

Ireland's gritty win over France kept them on course for a St Patrick's Day showdown with England but they must not take their eye off the ball.

Wales' defeat to Scotland last time out was a major upset as they handed the Scots their first Six Nations victory in seven years, but Reilly is refusing to read too much into that.

"They'll be saying that we won there previously and Wales have had a bit of a bad run but you see that as a potential banana skin as well," she insisted.

"Wales are going to be hurting and with the tragedy that they had within the squad, they are going to be looking to put in a massive performance and to really come together as a squad."

Reilly's partnership with Sophie Spence in the engine room will be crucial. If Ireland can get the edge on Wales up front early on, they have the firepower out wide to cause damage.

"We're working well together now," Reilly said. "From a lineout point of view, we seem to have done well.

"We've done well in the last little while but no doubt, it will be another huge challenge.

"We're just trying to concentrate on getting the basics right. In the November Series and the warm-up match against Wales, they were the things that let us down.

"We've gone back and concentrated on our skill base and with that, confidence has grown."

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