Wales and Ireland will step up their preparations for the 2020 Women’s Six Nations with an uncapped match at Vale Resort in Cardiff on January 19.
With the countdown to this year’s Championship firmly underway, the two sides will pit their wits against each other for the first time since Wales edged a tightly-contested encounter 15-13 at the UCD Bowl in November.
And Ireland head coach Adam Griggs is looking forward to seeing his charges back in action, as the two-time champions ultimately seek an improvement on last year’s fifth-place finish.
The former Leinster boss believes his squad have grown together since his appointment two years ago and is confident the exhibition against their close rivals is the perfect opportunity to fine-tune some of things they have been working on in training.
“We’ve got a really good block coming through January now, and the warm-up game against Wales is another chance to test out the squad and put some of our recent work into practice,” he said.
“It’s no secret that this is the big part of our season – leading into the Six Nations – and we need to make sure the girls are energised and ready to go for that period.
“Following the matches in November, we identified a few things we needed to improve on – especially around the set-piece – but it’s a good squad that we’ve put together and there’s a good core that have been with me from the start.
“We’re really positive about the prolonged period we’ve got with the team now, and we have the advantage of having three home games in the Championship this season which could make a big difference to us.”
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 7, 2020
For Welsh back-rower Siwan Lillicrap, November wins over Celtic rivals Ireland and Scotland – and a brave 29-15 defeat by the Barbarians at Principality Stadium – have bred huge confidence throughout the squad ahead of the Six Nations.
The 32-year-old – who led Wales for four of their five November matches – believes their upcoming fixture against the Irish will provide another chance for Wales to showcase an exciting blend of youth and experience, as they bid to improve on fourth place in the Six Nations last time out.
She said: “We’re very excited for the Six Nations now and I’m really looking forward to seeing what this squad can do.
“We’ll cherish the memories of the Autumn and the chance to play in the national stadium was massive. We had a lot of new caps and that has really helped us moving forward.
“We were a bit rusty against Ireland last time, so hopefully we can keep building on what we’ve been working on since then.
“I know this team can do that because I still think there is a lot more to come, and we’re all raring to go ahead of our first Championship match.”
Ireland and Wales go head-to-head in the Six Nations on February 9 at Energia Park. Ireland’s Round 1 match is at home to Scotland, while Wales kick-off against Italy at Cardiff Arms Park.