A challenging international double header awaits Ireland this month, but scrum-half Ailsa Hughes is relishing the prospect of taking on the leading lights in their sport.

First up this weekend is a USA side facing their third weekend in a row in action. The visitors reached the last four of the 2017 World Cup and whose ranking of fourth in the world is three above that of Adam Griggs’ charges.

The following week an even greater challenge awaits as Ireland travel to Twickenham to face world champions New Zealand's closest challengers England.

Hughes is looking to cement her place in the number nine jersey with Nicole Cronin on the bench and coming in off the back of Leinster’s interprovincial success, is chomping at the bit to take to the field.

"It’s really, really exciting," she told RTÉ Sport. "Up to now, we have only had the Six Nations. That’s only a couple of matches. If we want to keep to the standards these teams are setting, we need to be playing Test matches.

"It’s time to put our foot down and see what we can do.

"We want to go out and show what we can do. Ideally, that would be wins, but at the same time, we need to build as a team and we need to introduce those new players."

Griggs is continuing to ring the changes in personnel, with four players set for debuts at Donnybrook. Full-back Lauren Delany and winger Laura Sheehan will definitely make their bows, while front rower Emma Hooban and 16-year-old Beibhinn Parsons likely to follow suit.

"The talent coming up is unreal," says Hughes, who herself is just in her sixth season as a rugby player.

"When I played camogie, I always  wanted to play at a higher level. I was never satisfied, I always wanted to be better and better"

Having won All-Ireland intermediate camogie medals with Offaly, she is used to high achievement in sport and says that drive has been channeled to propel her rugby career, first with Railway Union and then with international recognition.

"When I decided to take up rugby I had my mind made on where I wanted to be," she says. "That was probably extremely naïve, but I’m lucky how it has turned out. When I played camogie, I always  wanted to play at a higher level. I was never satisfied, I always wanted to be better and better. It’s the same in other sports.

"I was lucky enough I went into rugby and the same thing happened. Railway Union took me on after I moved from Tullamore and they helped me grow as a player."

Listen to live and exclusive match commentary of Ireland v USA this Sunday on RTE Radio 1 Extra from 12:55pm