As they await the visits of Scotland and Wales to Dublin in the coming weeks, Ireland are rightly confident of their best ever Six Nations finish. Team captain Sarahjane Belton chatted to IrishRugby.ie about her championship ambitions.
England are once again expected to clinch this years ‘Women’s Six Nations title, with few sides able to match their current depth and talent at national level.
And it is likely that when Ireland travel to London in their final game they will be up against a Grand Slam-chasing side who they have never beaten.
However John O’Sullivan’s charges will not be thinking too hard about England just yet with two crucial home games in the next few weeks.
Should Ireland beat Scotland and Wales it would represent their best ever Six Nations regardless of what happens in London and they will take huge confidence from their opening two games.
A 19-0 win against Italy was impressive because it was Ireland’s first serious Test match in almost a year and scoring all of their points in the second half suggested that the team were beginning to click at just the right time.
They travelled to France as massive underdogs despite running the French close at home last year. Ireland lost a real chance to cause a major upset a fortnight ago when a lapse in concentration saw France score a crucial try to kill the game off and win 19-16.
Irish captain Sarahjane Belton said it was a disappointing result but that Ireland have the ability to put in some big performances in the coming weeks.
“It was another close defeat to the French this year and that’s always difficult to take when you were in a position to win the game. We will take a lot from it though, both the positives and areas we need to improve on and we’re looking forward now to Scotland,” she said.
“There is a definite confidence about the squad, and I think there’s a sense of both expectation and obligation to put things right in the next few games.”
Belton, who donned the number 10 jersey as part of the World Cup All-Star team in 2006, has been lining out more recently at full-back and has been catching the eye with her performances even though she is still recovering from a serious back injury.
“I have a small bulge and tear in a disc in my lower back, which kept me out of action for eight months until January,” she explained.
“As there are no real guidelines for treating such an injury it has been a long road coming back. I’m not yet fully recovered but by managing the injury carefully I can get by. It has been a frustrating year to say the least but it is great to be back in action.”
The visits of Scotland and Wales represent, she said, real chances to see how Ireland had progressed. Belton added: “Scotland and Wales are always difficult sides to beat whether home or away. They have a good number of experienced players who know how to play the game to their strengths, often making it difficult for opposition to implement their game plan. Both teams will always fight until the bitter end, and we’ve no reason to expect anything different this year.”
Ireland Women v Scotland – Friday, February 22, kick-off 6pm, St Mary’s College RFC, Dublin
Ireland Women v Wales – Friday, March 6, kick-off 7.30pm, St Mary’s College RFC, Dublin
England v Ireland Women – Saturday, March 15, kick-off 1pm, London Irish Amateur RFC