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Six Nations Preview: Italy Women v Ireland Women

Six Nations Preview: Italy Women v Ireland Women

The Ireland Women’s squad are on the cusp of another milestone achievement as they look to overturn Italy and make history as Grand Slam champions. A fifth and final victory would be a fitting way to end the campaign with captain Fiona Coghlan destined to lift the RBS 6 Nations trophy.


ITALY WOMEN (5th) v IRELAND WOMEN (1st), Venegoni Stadium, Parabiago, Milan, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (RTÉ Two/RTÉ website)

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Team News: Ireland Women’s head coach Philip Doyle has made two changes to the starting line-up for the trip to Milan on Sunday afternoon.

Grace Davitt comes into the centre, alongside Lynne Cantwell, in place of Jenny Murphy who picked up a hamstring injury in the 15-10 victory over France.

Niamh Kavanagh will start on the right wing in place of Ashleigh Baxter who moves to the replacements bench.

Heather O’Brien and Shannon Houston have been included on the bench for the much-anticipated Grand Slam decider which will be broadcast live from Milan on RTÉ Two, with coverage beginning at 1.45pm.

Ireland are already the RBS 6 Nations champions having won all four of their games to date, and now travel to Italy hoping to complete an historic Grand Slam.

RTÉ’s transmission of the Italy v Ireland Women’s game will be the first time ever that an Irish Women’s rugby match has been broadcast live on Irish television.

Presenter Joanne Cantwell will be joined by former Irish Women’s captain Sarahjane Belton, with commentary from Ryle Nugent and former Irish International Rosie Foley.

The game will also be streamed live on RTÉ.ie within the island of Ireland, in addition there will be live radio commentary updates throughout the match from Michael Corcoran on RTÉ Radio 1 Sunday Sport.

Meanwhile, Italy head coach Andrea dI Giandomenico has made two changes to the side that started the 34-0 defeat away to England.

Sofia Stefan and Awa Coulibaly have both been benched with Maria Grazia Cioffi starting on the left wing and Marta Ferrari coming in at loosehead prop.

Italy began the Six Nations with a famous 13-12 home victory over France and also beat Scotland on an 8-0 scoreline in Dundee.

Wales only had a point to spare over the ever-improving Italians (16-15), so Ireland can expect a tough test in this final round tie.

The hosts are captained once again by flanker Silvia Gaudino, who has made a record 33 Six Nations appearances for her country. Experienced out-half Veronica Schiavon has scored 147 points in her 31 Championship outings to date.

ITALY WOMEN: Manuela Furlan (Benetton Treviso); Maria Diletta Veronese (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Michela Sillari (Rugby Colorno), Paola Zangirolami (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Maria Grazia Cioffi (Red&Blu Rugby); Veronica Schiavon (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Sara Barattin (Rugby Casale); Marta Ferrari (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Melissa Bettoni (Rugby Sassenage Isere), Lucia Gai (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Cristina Molic (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Alice Trevisan (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Michela Este (Benetton Treviso), Silvia Gaudino (Rugby Monza 1949) (capt), Flavia Severin (Benetton Treviso).

Replacements: Debora Ballarini (Mustang Rugby Pesaro), Sara Zanon (Benetton Treviso), Awa Coulibaly (Rugby Monza 1949), Cecilia Zublena (Rugby Sassenage Isere), Ilaria Arrighetti (Rugby Monza 1949), Vanessa Chindamo (Rugby Monza 1949), Michela Tondinelli (Benetton Treviso), Sofia Stefan (Valsugana Rugby Padova).

IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exile); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Mowden Park Sharks/Exile), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Exile), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).

Replacements: Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry/Ulster), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), Lauren Day (Waterloo/Exile), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Amy Davis (Blackrock College/Ulster), Shannon Houston (Blackrock College/Leinster), Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).

Referee: Clare Daniels (England)
Assistant Referees: Federica Guerzoni, Doranna de Carlini (both Italy)

Pre-Match Quotes: Philip Doyle (Ireland Women) – “It’s a testament to Ross Callaghan’s strength and conditioning of the squad that we have got this far without injury.

“Unfortunately Jenny picked up a knock in the last game and she is missing this weekend, but it’s great that we have the depth in the squad that we can call on Grace to easily slip into the starting line-up.

“We know it’s a huge task ahead of us this weekend and there is a lot of expectation on our shoulders, but at the end of the day it’s a game of rugby that we have to go out to win and it will be treated as another international match that the team are well up for.

“Italy has shown in their past matches that they are very resilient and without doubt will be a huge task for our girls to break them down.”

Pre-Match Links –

Ireland Women Confirmed As Six Nations Champions

Coghlan Named ‘Sportswoman Of The Month’

Ireland Women’s Match Live On RTÉ

Neville: Title Win Can Be Catalyst For Women’s Game

Irish Rugby TV: Ireland Women v France Women Highlights

Match Facts –

– The Italy Women have already beaten France and Scotland this season, but they have never won three matches in a Six Nations campaign

– Ireland have already secured a first ever Triple Crown and Women’s Six Nations title, and now they are going for a maiden Grand Slam

– The Ireland Women have lost just one of their last nine matches at this level: 23-6 to England at Esher last March

– Italy have beaten Ireland just once before, 13-5 in Nice in the FIRA Championship in April 1997

– Parabiago hosts its first Women’s Test match

– Ireland winger Alison Miller is out on her own as the top try scorer in this year’s Women’s Six Nations with five tries in four outings, including that famous hat-trick against defending champions England

– Miller’s back-three colleague, full-back Niamh Briggs, has scored 37 points so far (three tries, five conversions and four penalties), making her the leading scorer just ahead of Amber Reed from England (35 points)

Recent Meetings –

2010: Women’s RBS 6 Nations: Ireland Women 22 Italy Women 5, Ashbourne RFC

2011: Women’s RBS 6 Nations: Italy Women 5 Ireland Women 26, Stadio Mario Battaglini, Rovigo

2012: Women’s RBS 6 Nations: Ireland Women 40 Italy Women 10, Ashbourne RFC