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Belton Looks Forward to Home Ties

18th February 2008 By Munster Rugby

Belton Looks Forward to Home Ties

As they await the visits of Scotland and Wales to Dublin in the coming weeks Ireland are rightly confident of their best ever Six Nations finish. Irish captain Sarahjane Belton reflects on the games ahead.

England are once again expected to clinch this year’s title, with few sides able to match their current depth and talent at national level, and it’s likely that when Ireland travel to London in their final game that they’ll be up against a grand-slam chasing side who they’ve never beaten.

However John O’Sullivan’s charges won’t be thinking too hard about England just yet with two crucial home games in the next couple of weeks. Should Ireland beat Scotland and Wales it would represent their best ever Six Nations regardless of what happens in London and they will take huge confidence from their first two games.

A 19-0 win against Italy was impressive because it was Ireland’s first serious test match in almost a year and scoring all of their points in the second half suggested that the team were beginning to click at just the right time.

They travelled to France as massive underdogs despite running the French close at home last year. The score read 19-17 to France after an hour but Ireland lost a real chance to cause a major upset when a lapse in concentration saw France score a crucial try to kill the game off and win 16-19.

Irish captain Sarahjane Belton said it was a disappointing result but Ireland had the ability to put in big performances in the coming weeks.

"It was another close defeat to the French this year and that’s always difficult to take when you were in a position to win the game. We will take a lot from it though, both the positives and areas we need to improve on and we’re looking forward now to Scotland. There is a definite confidence about the squad, and I think there’s a sense of both expectation and obligation to put things right in the next few games."

Belton, who was named in the number ten shirt as part of the World Cup All Star team in 2006, has been lining out more recently at fullback and has been catching the eye with her performances even though she is still recovering from a serious back injury.

"I have a small bulge and tear in a disc in my lower back, which kept me out of action for eight months until January," she explained. "As there are no real guidelines for treating such an injury it has been a long road coming back. I’m not yet fully recovered but by managing the injury carefully I can get by. It has been a frustrating year to say the least but it is great to be back in action."

The visits of Scotland and Wales represent, she said, real chances to see how Ireland had progressed. "Scotland and Wales are always difficult sides to beat whether home or
away. They have a good number of experienced players who know how to play the game to their strengths, often making it difficult for opposition to implement their game plan. Both teams will always fight until the bitter end, and we’ve no reason to expect anything different this year."

Remaining Fixtures.
Ireland V Scotland, 6pm, Friday February 22, St Mary’s RFC, Dublin.
Ireland V Wales, Friday March 6, 7.30pm KO, St Mary’s RFC, Dublin.
England V Ireland, Saturday March 15, 1pm KO, London Irish Amateur RFC

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