Head coach Tom Tierney is hoping for a “new era” of success for Ireland’s women as a much-changed squad gears for Six Nations action.

Tierney takes over from long-time Irish coach Philip Doyle, who left his position after guiding Ireland to a remarkable semi-final spot in last year’s World Cup, and a Six Nations title the year before.

As well as Doyle, Ireland go into this year’s championship opener against Italy on Friday (kick-off 1800) without several of the players who have lifted women’s rugby to a level bever before seen in Ireland: former captain Fiona Coghlan, Lynne Cantwell and Grace Davitt have all departed the international scene.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Tierney said he was looking forward to what he considered “a great opportunity” for himself, personally, and the group as a whole.

“Hopefully [it can be] a new era, after such a successful era,” Tierney said. “The Six Nations two years ago, and the World Cup and how well they did in that last year. So, exciting times, and we’re looking forward to it, and hopefully we’ll be competitive on Friday night.”

“On top of the quality and the talent that they have, it’s just their desire and their work-rate, and their willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful" - Tom Tierney on his Ireland squad

Notwithstanding the notable retirements, the group of players with whom Tierney will be working is one who has established its world-class quality and commitment to developing the women’s game in Ireland. The new head coach said this had made his life much easier.

“On top of the quality and the talent that they have, it’s just their desire and their work-rate, and their willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful [that is notable],” he said. “That’s been a refreshing and a brilliant starting point for me.”

Only appointed to the position in December, Tierney admitted it had been tough to work within the small window of opportunity before the Six Nations, but said Ireland were “quietly confident” of where they were in their preparations.

“The minute Christmas is over, it just seems like, every year, that the Six Nations is on you. It has been tough; we have had five training camps. We’ve had to be very, very smart and logical in how we prepare and what we wanted to prepare for the girls and how we want to play.

“We’re happy where we are. Obviously, you’d like to have more time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. But we’re getting on with it. It’s not an excuse. We’re quietly confident that we’ll be ready for Friday night.”

Like his captain Niamh Briggs, Tierney predicted a nail-biter in the game against Italy, despite last year’s fixture ending with an utterly dominant 39-0 win for Ireland.

“You get one type of Italian team at home, but when you go over to Italy, it’s going to be an absolute dog-fight.

“Two years ago, when this team won the Six Nations, it was a nail-biter, and it could have gone either way. We’re under no illusions: it’s going to be a very, very physical Italian team, but it’s an Italian team that can play 15-player rugby as well.”