Six Nations of Women: England and Ireland cannot focus on women’s six nations

A split picture of Ireland's Sene Naoupu and England's Emily Scarratt
Only twice has Ireland beaten England in 29 meetings
Venue: Welford Road, Leicester Date: Sunday, April 24 Kick-off:12:00 BST
Coverage: BBC Two, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sport App. Live text commentary.

This is one of the most famous cliches in sports, but England and Ireland cannot focus on their opponents when they meet at Sunday's Women's Six Nations.

This is no surprise. As if England's current dominance over the world game weren't enough to win at Welford Road in victory, Ireland will be without key players.

To the Irish absences, – players are away training with the sevens sideEngland's head coach Simon Middleton chose round four as his strongest side.

Again, professionalism is key. Red Roses are professional, with separate XV/a-side and sevens programs. This has allowed them to win three Six Nations titles in succession and 21 matches.

Ireland is home to who received an apology from their unionYou get paid per day for your failures in the women’s game prior to the tournament. Priorities shift between the two formats.

It is likely that Leicesterians will witness a perfect storm.

In front of a record crowd of more than 15,000Both sides will begin to turn inwards.

England must decide their strongest XV, before France will likely decide. Ireland can shape their future stars.

For starting spots, players ‘wait in wings'

England will not be troubled by the scoreboard so pressure will come in from the inside.

Captain Sarah Hunter claims that the side is the most strong and deep in its 15-year history as a Red Rose.

The Six Nations Finale and October's World Cup are both crowded, so there is a lot of competition for starting positions.

Simon Middleton, head coach, said that if any player fails against Ireland “there are other players waiting in the wings”, who could step in for France.

He added, “These players must play well.”

Emily Scarratt, star centre, is expected to rise to the occasion as she receives her 100th cap in her hometown.

Middleton continues to experiment with full-backs, with fly-half Helena Rowland (centre and fly-half) continuing his full-back experiments. Rowland is the latest to attempt the 15-shirt after Abby Dow injured her leg while playing against Wales.

Poppy Cleall, a versatile forward, finds herself on the bench after Zoe Aldcroft, world player of year, is back from injury at lock. Middleton states that Alex Matthews, flanker for the team “has become an important player”.

Irish absences “a real shame”

Ireland has too few players, while England has too many.

Five of the visitors' starting backline are absent, and seven players are currently away in Canada preparing for a sevens tournament.

Stacey Flood and Lucy Mulhall, Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, and Beibhinn parsons have all left a void in the backline. Brittany Hogan and Anna McGann are also absent.

It's worse that lock Sam Monaghan (Ireland's best player of the tournament) has a calf injury. Back row Aoife wafer is also unavailable.

Middleton believes it is “a shame” that Ireland has been so depleted. Former captain Ciara Griffin said the side could only focus on “mini wins” in key areas such as the breakdown and set-piece.

These absences give Molly Scuffil McCabe, full-back, the chance to make her debut. Niamh Byrne will be making her debut off the bench.

Greg McWilliams, head coach of the team, is looking for positives and says: “This is a thrilling opportunity for players who want the chance to show their talent on the largest stage.”

England to “put on a show”

While there might not be any competitive edge, the crowd is certain to enjoy a lot of attempts.

England has averaged over 10 games in the tournament, while conceding only two.

Red Roses were particularly dominant in the final 20 minute, winning all three games by more 50 points.

Middleton, the head coach, took time to show respect for the opposition and said “they'll have ultra-competitive” before turning his attention to himself.

“Ultimately, it's all about keeping our eyes on ourselves,” he said.

“Our responsibility it to perform as best as possible and put on an incredible show in front a huge crowd.

Line-ups

England:Rowland, Scarratt and Aitchison, Breach, Thompson; Harrison, Infante, Cornborough, Davies; Bern, Aldcroft Ward, Matthews Packer, Hunter (capt).

Replacements: Cokayne, Botterman, Muir, Galligan, Cleall, Hunt, Reed, Kildunne.

Ireland:Scuffil McCabe; Doyle; Naoupu, Breen; Considine; Cronin.

Replacements: Hooban, Pearse, O'Dwyer, Moore, Og O'Leary, Reilly, Claffey, Byrne.

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