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If there is a dark horse to make the finals in this year’s Women’s World Cup, it is Ireland. This is a scrappy and experienced side that is infused with optimism about its prospects. And, there is an additional emotional reason, the coach, Phil Doyle, will retire after the Cup.

The Irish XV surprised the rugby world by not only winning the 2013 IRB Women’s Six Nation’s Cup, but also that year achieving a Grand Slam. The squad gave up the least points, 26, and even thought it scored only half the tries of France and England (both 3-2), its stingy defense produced five victories.

In 2014, in the same event, the Irish went 3-2, losing close matches to France 15-19, and 10-17 to England, the same score as the Red Roses’ win this month against the Eagles.

Ireland will be led by Captain Fiona Coghlan, and see Tania Rosser at scrumhalf, a replacement for the injured Amy Davis.

The 26-players (13 backs and 13 forwards) realize that under the bonus point rules, it must play the Black Ferns close in the second contest. But more importantly, if the team is to have any chance to reach the semi-finals of four nations, it has to beat the Eagles in the opening game on Friday, August 1. (Pitch 3, 5 p.m. at the French National Rugby Center at Marcoussis.)