'Italy win proof Ireland are heading in the right direction,' says Naoupu

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Victory over Italy earned Ireland third place in this year's Women's Six Nations, having earlier beaten Wales and been defeated by France © Action Images
Victory over Italy earned Ireland third place in this year's Women's Six Nations, having earlier beaten Wales and been defeated by France © Action Images

Sene Naoupu believes a third-place finish in the Women’s Six Nations represents an important box ticked in Ireland’s journey as a squad.

The centre has been an ever-present during the 2021 Championship and helped her side end on a high with a 25-5 victory over Italy in the first game of Finals Day.

The performance may not have hit the heights of Ireland’s 45-0 victory over Wales a fortnight ago but following a heavy defeat against France last time out, Naoupu feels the response was just what the doctor ordered.

“Two wins from three was our target and we are really pleased to have achieved it,” she said.

“We are on a journey. It’s all about building. To come into three games like this after a big spell out, we knew it was going to be a challenge.

“We are pleased, progress-wise, with what we would class as success as a squad.

“There are things to work on but we’ll go away knowing we achieved what we set out to in this particular Championship.”

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The hosts needed just eight minutes to break the deadlock in Dublin, with flanker Dorothy Wall crashing over on the left wing early on.

Naoupu spent ten minutes in the sin-bin midway through the first period for a high tackle but Italy could not make their numerical advantage count, with Stacey Flood’s penalty the only other scoring act in a disjointed half littered with handling errors and penalties.

Ireland improved after the interval and crossed for three further tries, Cliodhna Moloney dotting down in between Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe’s clinical brace, while Flood earned the Player of the Match award following an impressive first international 15-a-side start at fly-half.

“The performance wasn’t perfect today but we needed to represent the full 40+ squad members who have been a huge part of this journey,” Naoupu said.

“We also represented our captain, Ciara Griffin, who went off early, and to have a new player [Flood] come in at ten and win Player of the Match is really rewarding.

“There are plenty of positives from our performance. We are pleased we got the result and pleased we are building layers in our own journey.”