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Six Nations: Davis warns that rolling double six will be tough for Ireland

By Niall Crozier

Ulster's Amy Davis, who lines out tonight as Ireland Women launch their defence of the Six Nations title in won in such style last season reckons a repetition of the Grand Slams is highly improbable.

The scrum-half said: "What we would class as our two toughest games are both away. We're away to England at Twickenham and Gary Street (England's head coach) has said that they're targeting that game.

"And then away to France on the last weekend as well at Stade du Hameau and the last time we played there there was a 10,000 crowd which was unbelievable.

"This year it will be an awful lot harder with the two toughest games being away."

First up tonight are Scotland Ladies at Ashbourne RFC (7.30pm). Expressing her delight at having made the starting line-up, Davis admitted: "Last year, although we won the Six Nations, it was a bit disappointing for me as I didn't get as much game time as I would have liked so I'm absolutely over the moon to be starting."

As for the prospect of playing at the Aviva Stadium where the Irish and Italian women meet following their male counterparts' showdown on March 8, she said: "Everyone's really looking forward to it. We just want to play in big venues and play big games. We'd be hoping for a big enough crowd to stay on after the men's game to watch.

"But it's Scotland first; we'll see how we are after that."

Admitting that the Scots can be difficult opponents, Davis said: "We know how we want to play against them so it's just up to us to stick to the game-plan and do the basics well."

Tonight she is joined in the starting line-up by Ulster colleague Stacey-Lea Kennedy who is named as hooker. A third Ulster member of the Grand Slam squad, Grace Davitt, is a replacement, as is Larissa Muldoon, an exile from the province nowadays playing for Bristol.

Not surprisingly, coach Philip Doyle has kept faith with a number of the players who put paid to England, France, Italy, Scotland and Wales last season.

Captain Fiona Coghlan, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Millar and Nora Stapleton who featured in the all-conquering 2013 line-up are among tonight's starters.

Niamh Briggs – another of last season's heroines – is one of tonight's replacements.

Ahead of their title defence the women have secured a new three-year jersey sponsorship deal with Aon.

The sponsorship – the first of its kind for the women's senior team – will see the Aon logo displayed on the Irish jerseys tonight.

Captain Coghlan said: "It is fantastic that Aon have given their backing to the women's game as it is a real recognition of the hard work that everyone involved in the game has put in over the year, which ultimately resulted in our 6 Nations win last year.

"As we head into the defence of our 6Nations championship we are very proud to have such a strong partner on our Irish jersey."

Ireland Women v Scotland (Ashbourne RFC, 7.30pm): Jackie Shiels (Exile); Hannah Casey (Exile)*, Lynne Cantwell (Exile), Jenny Murphy (Leinster), Alison Miller (Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Leinster), Amy Davis (Ulster); Fiona Coghlan (Leinster), Stacey-Lea Kennedy (Ulster), Ailis Egan (Leinster); Sophie Spence (Leinster), Marie –Louise Reilly (Leinster); Siobhan Fleming (Munster), Claire Molloy (Connacht), Heather O'Brien (Munster). Replacements: Gill Bourke (Munster), Fiona Hayes (Munster), Kerri –Ann Craddock (Exile)*, Orla Fitzsimmons (Leinster)*, Paula Fitzpatrick (Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Exile), Grace Davitt (Ulster), Niamh Briggs (Munster).


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