sam monaghan
The Ireland squad is growing all the time and the players are looking forward to another home game this weekend, says Sam Monaghan.

Monaghan returned from a lay-off due to a head injury to captain the Irish team in round two of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations against Italy.

And while the WXV 3 champions were defeated 27-21 in front of a healthy crowd of 6,505 at the RDS Arena in Dublin, there have been positives to take from that game and the 38-17 round one loss in France.

With the fallow week now behind us, Ireland will be in Cork on Saturday to host Wales at Virgin Media Park with another big turnout expected.

“We love playing at home and it is great that we are able to take matches around the country and help grow the spread of women’s rugby,” Gloucester-Hartpury second-row Monaghan, 30, said.

“There was a great atmosphere in Dublin at the RDS a couple of weeks ago and that support really helped us and I know the younger members of the squad in particular really enjoyed it and got a buzz from it.

“Now we have this Wales game in Cork and a game against Scotland in round five at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast and we want to give our home crowds something to cheer about.”

In the Italy match Ireland had a lot of possession, but ended up with only a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.

“Everyone was very disappointed after the Italy game, I think we could have won that game a number of times over, but our execution let us down,” Monaghan explained.

“Coming off the France game in round one we knew the areas that we wanted to get better in and I thought our attack was better and our set piece was better, it was just when we got into Italy’s 22 we couldn’t finish off our chances and at this level we need to be more clinical.

“Our handling errors and our discipline let Italy back into the game.

“So, ultimately it was frustrating, but the building blocks are there and we have been working since then to get ourselves right for the Wales game.

“I have been really proud of the group’s reaction to the Italy game, there were some honest conversations and a good review and since then we have all come together to put in the work ahead of the last three rounds of the Six Nations.

“Since our last match, our maul defence has been a big work-on because we know Wales like to use that and will likely come at us in that area.

“We are ready for a physical battle up front and as a pack of forwards we want to get the team on the front foot because we have some exciting backs who can cause a lot of issues given the right ball.”

One shining light for all teams so far in this year’s tournament has been the impact that young players have been making and Ireland have benefitted from that too.

Back-row Aoife Wafer, 21, was named the Player of the Round after round two following her showing against Italy and Monaghan said: “The young players have been great around the group in recent weeks and Aoife was everywhere in our last match.

“Winger Katie Corrigan is only 18, but she has taken confidence from playing really well in the recent Celtic Challenge and has brought that into the international arena.

“She kept going against Italy and showed her talent to get us a try near the end that, after the conversion, helped us to gain a bonus point. She is a fearless player, she is brave and those are great qualities in any player.

“What’s great about Katie and a number of other young players who are with us now is that they are not afraid to be themselves on and off the pitch and I think that brings great energy and something new to the group.

“We are in camp a lot over these couple of months so we have worked hard at building the togetherness on and off the field - no matter what age you are or how experienced you are – and I am really enjoying the dynamic in the squad and am really looking forward to the Wales game and what is to come.”