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Ireland Women Face Wales At Thomond Park

Ireland Women Face Wales At Thomond Park

Ulster star Suzanne Fleming will have the honour of leading the Ireland Women’s team out when they play an international at Thomond Park for the first time on Saturday (7pm)

Ulster star Suzanne Fleming will have the honour of leading the Ireland women’s team out when they play an international at Thomond Park for the first time on Saturday (7.00). The girls in green have been given the use of the famous Limerick venue for their Six Nations opener against Wales, making it a timely return as captain for Fleming following a nightmare 2001.

Suzanne missed out on skippering Ireland in the inaugural Six Nations after breaking her collar-bone when landing awkwardly on a frosted Malone pitch in a warm-up game against the British Police last January.

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She severely damaged the collar-bone again just before May’s European
Championships in Lille, ruling her out of that tournament as well and then, to complete a miserable year, was unavailable for the autumn international in Holland because of her commitments as a trainee fire-fighter.

Much will be expected of the fleet-footed Fleming on her eagerly awaited
return to the side as Ireland seek to go one better than their near miss against the Welsh in Lille last May and finally win a Championship game for the first time ever.

“There is no doubt that Wales are beatable, but we will have to be at our
very best on the night if we are to win” she says. “Since our 15-10 defeat in May, both countries have done well in their autumn games. It should be very close.”

While Ireland welcome back Fleming, Wales have lost their skipper Rhian
Williams, who broke her leg playing for Wasps last month, and flamboyant fullback Non Evans has opted instead to represent her country at judo in the Commonwealth Games.

Fleming, who reverts to her original Ireland position of wing, will have
two Ulster team-mates in the three-quarter line, converted centre Rachel Boyd and Waterloo wing Fiona Neary, while Ulster Branch President Joe Eagleson’s daughter, Karen, is at scrum-half.

Ulster skipper Rachel Reid is at blindside,, while uncapped Cooke captain Gillian McAllister faces a late fitness test on her hamstring to determine whether she can take her place on the bench alongside Rosie Foley and
Rachel Tucker, whose fathers,, Brendan and Colm, were in the Munster team which famously beat the All Blacks at Thomond Park in 1978.

There were over 1,200 people at the women’s club final between Shannon and Highfield there last January and Fleming hopes that the rugby-loving
Limerick public will turn out to support the girls in green.
“Playing at Thomond Park is a real honour and a big boost for women’s rugby. Now it’s up to us to mark the occasion with what would be an historic victory” says Suzanne.

IRELAND: SJ Belton (UL Bohs): S Fleming (Cooke, capt), P Kelly (UL Bohs), R Boyd (Cooke), F Neary (Waterloo); N Milne (Worcester), K Eagleson (Cooke); M Coulter (Blackrock), E Collins (UL Bohs), E Coen (Highfield), A-M
McAllister (Blackrock), M Quirke (UL Bohs), R Reid (Cooke), M O’Loughlin (UL Bohs), F Steed (Shannon). Replacements: R Tucker (Shannon), R Howell, L Beamish (both UL Bohs); G McAllister (Cooke), J Lonergan, R Foley (both Shannon), B Montgomery (Ripon).

WALES: N Thomas; C Flowers, L Rickard, M Berry, S Jones; A Thomas, R Owens; D Mason, J Kift, K Lenaghan, S Grainger, L Burgess, K Wilson, A Dent, P
Minto. Replacements: J Morgan, C Edwards, A Broadstock, C Donovan, K Jenkins, K Mayze, R Wilmott.