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Moloney Targets Strong Start Against ‘Very Physical’ Italy

Moloney Targets Strong Start Against ‘Very Physical’ Italy

They may have a perfect Women’s Six Nations record against Italy, but Ireland hooker Cliodhna Moloney sees reason to be wary of the challenge the Azzurre will pose in this afternoon’s round 2 match at Donnybrook (kick-off 1pm).

Tickets for the Ireland Women’s home games in Donnybrook are available now via www.ticketmaster.ie. The IRFU is offering a bus subsidy of up to 400 euro per club for private transport hire. For more information on the bus subsidy for the 2018 Women’s Six Nations, contact womensrugby@irfu.ie before purchasing tickets.

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Since losing to Italy during the 1997 FIRA European Championship, the Ireland Women have recorded 14 consecutive victories in this fixture. 11 of these wins have come in the Six Nations, including a Grand Slam-clinching success at Parabiago back in March 2013.

However, while Ireland are once again expected to prevail in front of a partisan home crowd, Italy come into today’s game on the back of a positive first half performance against England last weekend. They were level with the defending champions at half-time before eventually falling to a 42-7 defeat, and Cliodhna Moloney feels they need to put the Italians to the sword as quickly as possible.

“They’re obviously a very good team. They held England for 40 minutes and they are very physical. England probably beat them with fitness at the end and they just ran away with that. We’d be hoping to try and put our marker down early and get the crowd behind us in Donnybrook,” said Moloney.

“We’ve got a few things that we’ll try and target Italy with obviously through the homework we’ve done on them. It’ll be very important for us that we start well. Try and get them broken down a lot earlier than England did, because we don’t want the game stuck with us. We don’t want it to be a tight contest for that long, as it was with England.”

Despite only making her debut as recently as 2015, Moloney is seen as one of the more experienced operators in a much-changed Ireland squad. While the Galway native does not yet see herself as a key leader within the group, she still finds ways to set the right example for the newer members of the set-up.

“I don’t feel like I’m around that long. Obviously I got my first cap in 2015. I missed the Six Nations prior to the World Cup in 2017 through injury. I was disappointed to miss that, but I suppose I have been around most of the squad now for the guts of three years.

“I wouldn’t see myself as a leader or anything like that. Not through speaking or having any kind of a leadership role, but I would like to think that I lead through my actions and how we play and train together. If that’s any sort of leadership that I could offer anyone, it would be that.”

For Ireland’s opening home match of 2018, Moloney will be part of an unchanged front row alongside Lindsay Peat and Fiona Reidy. The Railway Union clubwoman showed herself to be a versatile performer in last Saturday’s 24-point defeat to France by playing the final 20 minutes of the contest in the back row.

This is a role she performs on a consistent basis at club level, but admits that switching positions to flanker during a game is not the most ideal of scenarios.

“I didn’t expect to be playing 80 minutes first of all, and I certainly didn’t expect to be playing 20 of it in the back row. I think I went there for a little bit in the World Cup. The Welsh game (the eighth place play-off), about 10 or 20 minutes as well. Sometimes it just needs to happen through injury.

“I don’t mind it at all. I actually like playing in the back row. It’s a bit of freedom, but it’s not exactly an easy task if you’ve played 60 minutes in the front row prior to that. It’s much more taxing obviously on fitness and on the legs, and defensively you have to be broken off quickly and stuff like that.”

This will be the Ireland Women’s first appearance at Donnybrook since St. Patrick’s Day last year when they shared the Dublin 4 venue with the Under-20s as part of a Six Nations double header. It may be difficult to generate the same level of anticipation that a Friday night game naturally brings, but Moloney feels there is something to be gained in hosting the Italians on a Sunday afternoon.

“We hugely enjoyed playing with the Under-20s. It’s just not feasible with the fixtures and stuff. They can’t manage Donnybrook with the big crowds. What we’ll lose in the Friday and Saturday night games, we’ll hopefully gain in more families and more atmosphere at the Sunday games.

“It doesn’t always have to be a bad change. It could just be a different direction that we go in. Obviously we’ll get younger crowds at the game. There’ll be more youth there and younger players hopefully,” she added.