Adam Griggs has backed Ireland’s Sevens stars to bring an “x-factor” to his side in this year’s Women’s Six Nations, starting with their trip to Wales on Saturday.
Head coach Griggs has handed Eve Higgins her 15-a-side international debut at outside centre while two more players who have impressed on the World Sevens Series circuit in recent years, Emily Lane and Stacey Flood, could make their bows off the bench.
Ireland begin their 2021 campaign at Cardiff Arms Park against a Welsh side beaten 53-0 by France last weekend and Griggs hopes the new faces - including returning full-back Eimear Considine - will provide a spark.
“Eve [Higgins] has been fantastic,” he said. “We have asked players that haven’t played for us yet to come into training and put their hands up and she has grabbed the bull by the horns.
“She has stood out and earned her spot. Emily Lane and Stacey Flood also have World Series Sevens experience, they have an x-factor about them and I think they can change a game for us when they get that opportunity.
“I’m sure we’ll see Amee-Leigh [Murphy Crowe] in due time as well. She is still a work in progress at the moment. No doubt she has the skills, we’ve seen that on the World Series Sevens circuit, but there are still a few adjustments to the 15-a-side game she is learning at the moment.
“We have seen with Eimear [Considine] that the more she’s been with us, the more she gains an understanding of the 15-a-side game.
“I hope she backs herself [on Saturday] and shows what a multi-skilled player she is. She’s really good in the air, has good handling, is a great open field runner - hopefully we can get the ball in her hands and give her those opportunities.”
Ireland have not played competitively since beating Italy 21-7 in October, their third win of last year’s Championship.
Griggs feels his players have continued to make steady progress in training since - though he knows the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
“We definitely feel we are the best prepared we’ve ever been in terms of our training quality in internal matches,” he said.
“We are really excited to get going, you can feel the buzz in the group and there has been that notable edge to us, which is exactly what you want from players.
“We’ll find out on Saturday exactly where we’re at. We know we have upped our standards but you never truly know until you are in the heat of a Test match.
“We’re a confident group going into the weekend and we’ll get our answers over the 80 minutes.”
The New Zealander also added his voice to those in favour of the Women’s Six Nations retaining its own position in the calendar but hopes to see a return to a full set of fixtures from next year.
“Having it standalone is brilliant and having it this time of year, the weather should promote how we want to play,” he said.
“I’d always push that we keep playing every nation - we are after as many Test matches as possible.
“We understand why the format had to change this year but beyond that we’d like to play every nation, as we have before.”