Following an encouraging 21-8 victory over Italy at the same venue a fortnight ago, Katie Fitzhenry is hopeful that Ireland can continue their progression in this afternoon’s Women’s Six Nations clash with Wales at Donnybrook (kick-off 3pm).
Katie Fitzhenry returned from Ireland Sevens duty to partner Sene Naoupu in the Irish midfield against the Azzurre and retains her place for the latest visit of their Welsh counterparts to Dublin. Only scoring difference currently separates the sides, with Ireland third in the table and Wales fourth.
“I think progression is probably the main thing here. We progressed from the France game and into the Italy game, and hopefully we can progress again this weekend,” said Wexford native Fitzhenry, speaking at the Talbot Hotel in Stillorgan on Friday.
“Those small steps make huge differences at times. The team is really gelling well together and hopefully we can make some of those wrongs from last week into some rights.”
The Italy match proved to be a satisfactory reintroduction to the 15s game for Fitzhenry, who made her international debut during Ireland’s memorable 30-5 Championship triumph over the same opposition in Florence three years ago.
While she concedes the final scoreline of 21-8 against Italy earlier this month could have been more comprehensive, today’s third round encounter is the perfect chance for the team to display their ruthless streak.
“I have a role coming into this team and thankfully last week that kinda paid off for me. Obviously, still have a lot of things to work on, but it was a good win and we’ll take the win. There were probably some extra points left out there that we should have taken, but again hopefully we’ll fix it this weekend.”
Like a number of players in the Ireland set-up, Fitzhenry has a strong GAA background. She was previously a member of the acclaimed Faythe Harriers club in Wexford town, who count All-Ireland winner Larry O’Gorman amongst their most famous sons, and also had a spell in Dublin with Thomas Davis.
Indeed, it was not until her own senior camogie side folded that the 28-year-old centre fully switched her focus to rugby. “I played camogie back home with the Harriers and I actually played with Thomas Davis up here just for a year,” she explained.
“It would have been probably 2014, but we actually won the Junior All-Ireland that year. Which was great, because I’d never played football before. Rugby kinda took over around the same time I stopped playing camogie. I was from a town team and we couldn’t get people going training. The team folded and I kind of just switched straight into rugby then at the time.
“I went back to play with Thomas Davis when I moved to Dublin, which was great. I played both camogie and football with them, but once the rugby started kicking in then, I didn’t really have any temptation to go back.”
Fitzhenry was part of the Ireland Women’s Sevens squad that travelled to Sydney at the end of January, where they claimed seventh place with a 19-10 play-off win over the USA. Hannah Tyrrell also returns to the Irish matchday squad today from the Sevens set-up, and Fitzhenry has found switching between both codes to be a relatively straightforward task.
“It’s been fine. Obviously I came in quite late to the (15s) set-up, so training weeks and stuff have changed for me. Things have been slightly different but juggling it has been fine. At the end of the day, we both play rugby in the Sevens and 15s. For me, it’s been quite an easy transition.
“Probably just the amount of people on the field, to be totally honest. The space seems to narrow up a lot in the 15s, but you get used to that fairly rapidly, when you’re going to get hit,” she added.