“We have to make sure Scotland are not a banana skin for us” – Fitzpatrick

By Stephen Leonard

ST MARY’S College Number 8 Paula Fitzpatrick is adamant that Ireland will have to be fully focused on their opening games of the Women’s Six Nations Tournament if they are to avoid an unexpected slip-up.

The Tallaght woman, who will captain the side in the absence of the injured Niamh Briggs, was speaking to The Echo after Head Coach Tom Tierney had named his squad for the Championship late last week.

Paula fitzpatrick free stock 02 February 2017

The team open their campaign away to Scotland in Broadwood Stadium tomorrow evening (Friday) with their hosts desperate to avoid yet another Six Nations Wooden Spoon.

And, according to Fitzpatrick, it is that fear of finishing bottom that makes the Scots a potentially dangerous proposition in their own backyard and one Ireland need to be fully focused upon despite other distractions that could come from other upcoming Six Nations games and the arrival of the Women’s World Cup in August.

“The World Cup is in the back of everyone’s mind,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s hard to ignore that, but we’re just taking it one game at a time and really concentrating on Scotland.

“They lost to Spain in their World Cup qualifier so they’ll be stinging from that.

“They usually give a big performance against one of the teams who would traditionally do well in the Six Nations and we just have to make sure that they’re not a banana skin for us.

“The Italians gave us a real scare the last time we played them in Donnybrook. They got a try which would have put them into the lead, but it wasn’t given.

“They have some outstanding players. Their scrum half is world class and they have a number of players who can really make things happen.

“We do have France and England at home this year. We play England on the St Patrick’s weekend so hopefully we can capitalise on that strong home support that will mimic the atmosphere in the World Cup later this year,” she added.

Some five uncapped players have been named in the Ireland panel which also includes Fitzpatrick’s St Mary’s clubmate Orla Fitzsimons.

“Orla has been doing well,” said Fitzpatrick. “She plays in the second row and is a real workhorse, getting through a lot of work.

“From the forwards play, we’d be looking to do a lot of work on set pieces particularly after the Welsh match [this month] where it was a bit disappointing. We’ll be looking at areas like the line-out.

“After November, the players went back into their inter-provincial campaigns and it was from that the Ireland squad was selected in January, so we spent the last three weekends together.

“There’s a good blend of youth and experience. Even some of the new players are not so young, but they bring that experience and it’s up to the more senior players to help them along.

“And those players who have not played [with the Ireland senior panel] before bring that enthusiasm and energy to the squad” she pointed out.

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