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Women Six Nations. Teams up for Ireland v Italy

The teams have been announced for the 2021 Women’s Six Nations 3rd place play off match between Ireland and Italy.

The match had originally been scheduled to be played in Parma, Italy but, with the Ireland players facing quarantine on their return, the Italian’s graciously agreed to switch the game to Donnybrook for a 12:00 kick off on Saturday 24th April.

The game has extra spice as the teams are due to complete in the Rugby Europe World Cup Qualifier, alongside Scotland and Spain, sometime this year, covid restrictions permitting.

In that regard, Italy, who have played impressive rugby against England and Scotland in Pool A of the Six Nations, look well down the road to qualification as opposed to Ireland who still seem unsure of what their best side is, as is evidenced by the selections.

Italy have named an unchanged squad from the one that dismantled Scotland last week whereas Ireland have made three changes to the starting line up with another four changes on the bench. Ireland’s comparatively inexperienced side losing over 100 caps in the process.

Ulster’s Brittany Hogan faces the toughest of challenges with the Old Belvedere and Ireland 7s player asked to replace, Ireland legend, Claire Molloy. Railway Union and Ireland’s 7s player Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe comes in for her first start on the wing in place of Lauren Delaney. Murphy Crowe is joined in the starting lineup by her Railway and 7s team mate Stacey Flood who starts at out half in preference to Hannah Tyrrell who moves to the bench.

Stacey Flood starts at out half for Ireland against Italy in the 2021 Six Nations. © Bob Given The Front Row Union

Ireland’s bench sees the return of Malone’s Neve Jones and UL Bohemian’s Enya Breen, with Harlequin’s Leah Lyons coming into the squad for the first time this season. Grace Moore, who joined Railway Union from Richmond, is in line to get her first cap should she get a run out from the bench.

Jone’s involvement is a significant development for her club mates at Malone as Chloe McIlwaine told us last week.

Teams

IRELANDITALY
Eimear Considine15Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe14Manuela Furlan
Eve Higgins13Michela Sillari
Sene Naoupu12Beatrice Rigoni
Beibhinn Parsons11Maria Magatti
Stacey Flood10Veronica Madia
Kathryn Dane9Sara Barattin
Lindsay Peat1Erika Skofka
Cliodhna Moloney2Melissa Bettoni
Linda Djougang3Lucia Gai
Aoife McDermott4Valeria Fedrighi
Nichola Fryday5Giordana Duca
Dorothy Wall6Ilaria Arrighetti
Brittany Hogan7Francesca Sgorbini
Ciara Griffin (C)8Elisa Giordano
Neve Jones16Lucia Cammarano
Laura Feely17Gaia Maris
Leah Lyons18Michela Merlo
Grace Moore*19Sara Tounesi
Hannah O’Connor20Isabella Locatelli
Emily Lane21Beatrice Veronese
Hannah Tyrrell22Sofia Stefan
Enya Breen23Aura Muzzo
*Uncapped at this level

As I said above, Italy have played some impressive rugby this tournament. Despite eventually getting thrashed by England, their opening half hour against the European heavyweights was some of the best rugby played this tournament and they followed this up with an impressive dismantling of Scotland. Hardworking, doing the basics well, and playing what’s in front of them, they remind me of Ireland circa 2013. They have the same sort of profile of experienced players in Manuela Furlan, Michela Sillari and Lucia Gai and exciting youngsters in Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi and Francesca Sgorbini.

Ireland have struggled to find form in both games played. With a heavy influx of 7s players they appear to have put less emphasis on developing core skills in favour of fitness and recovery statistics. This allowed them to overwhelm a hapless Wales but came up well short against an equally “stat ready” French side. Ireland’s passing was laboured and their tackling was poor which really limited their options when they weren’t able to physically overwhelm their opponents.

The FRU Predicts: Stacey Flood and Brittany Hogan may well be Ireland’s saviours in this one. Flood has certainly shown a smoother and more nuanced passing technique which could get Ireland in the areas they need to be in and “Our Brittany” could produce a “Molloyesque” performance and overwhelm the Italian pack, but it’s a big ask.

This Italy appear to be a different from previous years and they all seem to have bought into how they are being asked to play. Ireland may cause significant problems early on but I expect “the new and improved” Italy to have the composure and belief to win this one.

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