Adam Griggs, the Ireland head coach, insists his side are in a “privileged” position at being able to restart their Six Nations campaign despite the country re-entering into a national lockdown earlier this week.
The Republic of Ireland raised its coronavirus alert system to its highest level on Wednesday after a surge in the number of Covid infections pushed the country into a six-week lockdown. Schools will remain open and elite sport, including horse racing and Gaelic football, are allowed to continue.
Ireland's match with Italy on Saturday will be the first of five remaining fixtures set to be completed in the championship, which was halted back in March when the pandemic hit.
"No one across Irish Rugby in the women's game is actually able to pull on a jersey and play right now and yet here we are already privileged to represent our country and be one of the only teams actually playing in these times,” said Griggs. “It's not lost on us and we want to make sure that we perform really well and give everyone watching something to cheer about.”
The resumption of the women’s competition will allow Ireland to build much-needed momentum ahead of a planned World Cup qualifying tournament in December.
Griggs was forced into making two changes after naming his initial starting side following an inconclusive Covid test on one player who had potentially come into contact with two others.
“It has been a frustrating seven months, to be honest,” Griggs added. “We’re just grateful that we get to pull on the jersey this weekend and actually get out and play.
“The message from us is really, finally this weekend we can actually take control of what’s happening. Because like everyone, you sit in limbo for so long it becomes very frustrating and daunting.”
“What we’ve been able to do in training as a wider squad has been very competitive, we’ve been able to have internal games, but there’s no doubt you can’t replicate test match levels in training.”
Back rower Dorothy Wall, who came off the bench in Ireland’s three previous games in the competition this year, will earn her first Test start, while there is a return for former Irish captain Claire Molloy, who took a year out from the game to concentrate on her medical career.
"What I lack in experience they make up in abundance,” Wall said of the likes of Wasps flanker Molloy. “I feel very safe in the back three. They're wise heads so I'm looking forward to playing with them.”
Meanwhile, Scotland, who completed just two of their Six Nations games earlier this year, host France in the weekend’s other rescheduled fixture on Sunday.
England are due to travel to Italy on October 31 in their only remaining fixture of the tournament, where victory would guarantee them a consecutive Grand Slam.