by Brendan Cole

Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan is hoping for a third place finish at least in this year’s Women's Six Nations, in which qualification for the 2014 Rugby World Cup is on the line.

England and France have already qualified for France 2014 but the finishing positions over the next two seasons will determine which two of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy will miss the cut.

Coghlan believes that extra ingredient will add to the intensity of this year’s tournament.

She told "I think that definitely will add to the competitiveness of the Six Nations. Before now it was one year of a tournament which went towards qualification but this time around it's right now and again next year which makes it massively important.

"We will just be focused on one match at a time though like everyone else but it does add to the interest."

The schedule will see Ireland take on close rivals Wales in Ashbourne in their tournament opener on Friday night.

Italy and Scotland will also visit the Meath venue and, after taking third behind Europe’s "big two" in recent years, Ireland will be striving to do so again this time.

Coghlan said: "Finishing third again is something we would hope for as a minimum. We've done that the last few years and with our numbers and resources that's a good return. This year we've got France and England away which is always the tough year of fixtures for us.

"Both teams are superb at home and France away is probably one of those games where we have never really managed to do ourselves justice. We have managed to beat them at home so we would love to go there and do something special.

"Their support is phenomenal at home and the show they put on for games is fantastic so that's a tough one."

Neither Ireland or Wales have played a match since last year’s Six Nations but Coghlan expects a special atmosphere at Ireland’s home games.

She said: "We love playing there. The pitch is excellent and the community around there really get behind us and we have a good enough record there so three home matches for us is something for us to really look forward to."