The Ireland Women’s side beat France at home for the first time last year, but can the girls in green go one better tonight and triumph on French soil? France lost 10-8 away to Scotland last weekend, but will be a much tougher nut to crack in Blois.
RBS WOMEN’S 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, February 12
FRANCE WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Stade des Allees, Blois, 7pm local time/6pm Irish time
Team News: For the pivotal trip to France, Ireland coach Kevin West has made five changes to to the team that defeated Italy 22 -5 last weekend.
The experienced trio of Orla Brennan, Amy Davis and Sinead Ryan make their first appearances of the 2010 Championship, while Gillian Bourke and Caroline Mahon have been promoted from the replacements bench.
Those five players have over 60 international caps between them and will bring a level of experience to the side as they face a tough French outfit that lost 10-8 to Scotland in their opener.
Brennan and Ryan come into the back row for Carol Staunton and Claire Molloy, while Mahon moves into the second row to replace Kate O’Loughlin.
Bourke starts at hooker with Chris Fanning named among the replacements, and the pacy Davis starts on the right wing with Nora Stapleton reverting to the bench having earned her first cap last Friday.
Meanwhile, France have unsurprisingly altered their side after going down 10-8 to Scotland in Edinburgh in the opening round. Winger Fanny Horta, scrum half Stéphanie Provost, flanker Amandine Vaupre, lock Hasna Rhamouni and front rowers Céline Barthelemy and Cyndia Mansard have been bumped up from the replacements bench.
The French lost one and won one when meeting Canada in two international clashes before the start of the Six Nations.
Ireland’s last visit to France in 2008 ended in a 26-17 defeat – the nations have met on 16 occasions, with France winning 14, Ireland just once and there was also one draw (22-22 in the 2008 FIRA-AER European Championship play-off).
FRANCE WOMEN: Elodie Poublan (Montpellier); Caroline Ladagnous (Lons), Sandrine Agricole (Rennes), Lucille Godiveau (Rennes), Fanny Horta (Perpignan); Aurélie Bailon (Perpignan), Stéphanie Provost (Caen); Stéphanie Loyer (Bobigny 93), Cyndia Mansard (Saint-Orens), Céline Barthelemy (Bordeaux/Bruges Blanquefort), Hasna Rhamouni (Gennevilliers), Cyrielle Bouisset (Perpignan), Amandine Vaupre (Caen), Marie-Charlotte Hebel (Gerone), Sandra Rabier (Caen) (capt).
Replacements: Laetitia Salles (Perpignan), Nadège Labbey (Caen), Manon Andre (Saint Orens), Lucie Canal (Rennes), Marie-Alice Yahe (Perpignan), Christelle Leduff (Perpignan), Anaïs Lagougine (Montpellier).
IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (Clonmel/Munster); Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster), Grace Davitt (Blackrock/Leinster), Shannon Houston (Blackrock/Leinster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Joanne O’Sullivan (Richmond/Exile), Tania Rosser (Blackrock/Leinster); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Emer McManamly (Blackrock/Leinster), Caroline Mahon (UL Bohemians/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Navan/Leinster), Orla Brennan (Blackrock/Leinster), Sinead Ryan (Navan/Leinster), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: Chris Fanning (Highfield/Munster), Lauren Day (Cooke/Ulster), Kate O’Loughlin (Clonmel/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Louise Beamish (UL Bohemians/Munster), Helen Brosnan (Highfield/Munster), Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster).
Referee: Clare Daniels (England)
Pre-Match Quotes: Niamh Briggs (Ireland Women) – “It’s hard enough to go over there and win when they’re on form, but when they are looking to rebound too from what was a surprising defeat last weekend, they will be difficult to beat.
“We are under no illusions as to how hard they are to beat at home, but we’ll have to front up and hopefully get a lucky bounce of the ball on the day.
“The French away will be a test of where we are as a squad. I’m sure they will be very up for it, which is something we are going to have to take on board.
“At the start of the season we talked about having such good depth in the squad, and it’s important that everyone gets a run.
“We have the World Cup coming up, and the management want to blood in some players. The five coming in are just as good as those who have gone out, and I know the girls who come in will really be looking forward to stamping their mark on the side.
“As to their strengths, you really don’t know with the French. They can run from anywhere, kick from anywhere, so we will have to play it as it comes. They have strength everywhere.
“We worked hard (against Italy), and defended well for a long period of time in the first half. We took great heart from that.
“We defended well without them crossing the line. It was tough, the first encounter of the Championship will always show up a bit of rustiness, so we hope to improve another bit as well this weekend.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2008: RBS Women’s 6 Nations: France Women 26 Ireland Women 17, Saint Gratien
2008: FIRA-AER European Championship Play-Off: Ireland Women 22 France Women 22, Amsterdam (Ireland won 4-3 on try count)
2009: RBS Women’s 6 Nations: Ireland Women 7 France Women 5, Ashbourne RFC