Ireland Women entertain Scotland Women at Energia Park, Donnybrook on Sunday afternoon at 13:00. Although this is only the first round of this seasons championship this game has a touch of extra spice attached.

Both teams will be trying to get the upper hand before they meet again in September in the last chance saloon of the European Playoffs for the RWC 2021. Ireland and Scotland, along with Italy, will be joined in the playoffs by the winner of the 2020 Rugby Europe Women’s Championship with the winner qualifying directly to RWC 2021.

Going into those final playoff’s World Rugby Rankings are going to be important and a win on Sunday would see Scotland enter the top 10 for the first time and condemn Ireland to their lowest ever position of 11th.

Then, of course, there is the return of Ireland Women’s most successful coach ever, Philip Doyle, only this time he’s in charge of a newly energised Scotland Women’s side. A win for Doyle’s charges would not sit well with the Irish management team, a team already under pressure following a poor run of results since Doyle’s departure.

With the  retirement of the wonderful Claire Molloy this season this will be the first Ireland Women’s side without a major player from the golden era of 2013 – 2014. Molloy has been a huge influence in recent seasons so it will be interesting to see who steps up to fill her all action role on the pitch.

It is all to play for. Neither side has shown much form over the last couple of seasons. Ireland have won 3 of their last 13 outings and Scotland 4 from 18 over the same period. Scotland have been particularly busy since Doyle’s arrival, fitting in five extra games over that time, and three of those wins have been this season.

Game time has been a major problem for Ireland, with most of the squad only playing a peripheral part in their clubs activities, following increased call ups to Ireland camps. There have been hit outs against second string Welsh and Scottish sides in non ranking games in recent months but a full blooded international is a different matter and they have only played one of those, losing to Wales at the UCD Bowl in November.

It’s a difficult one to predict. Ireland have won 13 of their last 14 meetings and up until Scotland’s win at Donnybrook in 2018 Ireland would have looked at this as an expected win. Ireland did return to their winning ways with a comfortable 22 – 5 win in Scotstoun last season but a lot has changed since then.

Scotland can point to recent results and claim to be a team on the way up but it’s really difficult to gauge where Ireland are exactly as we’ve only got a loss to Wales as an indicator since the last Six Nations.

It’ll be close.

Lauren Delany 15 Chloe Rollie
Aoife Doyle 14 Rhona Lloyd
Sene Naoupu 13 Hannah Smith
Michelle Claffey 12 Lisa Thomson
Beibhinn Parsons 11 Megan Gaffney
Ellen Murphy 10 Helen Nelson
Kathryn Dane 9 Mairi McDonald
Lindsay Peat 1 Leah Bartlett
Ciodhna Moloney 2 Lana Skeldon
Linda Djougang 3 Mairi Forsyth
Aoife McDermott 4 Emma Wassell
Nichola Fryday 5 Sarah Bonar
Ciara Griffin 6 Rachel Malcolm
Edel McMahon 7 Rachel McLachlan
Anna Caplice 8 Jade Konkel
Victoria O’Mahony 16 Molly Wright
Laura Feely 17 Panashe Muzambe
Leah Lyons 18 Lisa Cockburn
Ciara Cooney 19 Siobhan Cattigan
Dorothy Wall 20 Louise McMillan
Nicole Cronin 21 Sarah Law
Claire Keohane 22 Evie Tonkin
Laura Sheehan 23 Alex Wallace

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