The Ireland Women’s team to play Italy in their opening match of the Women’s RBS 6 Nations on Sunday has been named by head coach Philip Doyle.
Fiona Coghlan will captain the side and is joined in the front row by Gillian Bourke, who is now playing her club rugby in Bristol, and Lauren Day, who missed out on the Women’s Rugby World Cup through injury.
Marie Louise Reilly is joined in the second row by Laura Guest, forming a Leinster-Munster axis.
Carol Staunton and Claire Molloy will pack down in the back row either side of dynamic number 8 Joy Neville, who scored two tries in Ireland’s 22-5 win over Italy last year.
Nora Stapleton, who made her debut against Italy twelve months ago, moves from the wing to out-half, a position she has been playing for her club side Old Belvedere. She will be partnered at half-back by the equally versatile Amy Davis.
The vastly-experienced Lynne Cantwell is joined in the centre by Highfield’s Geraldine Rea, who earns her first cap.
Niamh Briggs will again assume the place-kicking duties from full-back, with UL Bohemians wingers Mairead Kelly and Niamh Kavanagh, who is another new cap, completing the back-three.
Looking forward to the Championship, Irish skipper Fiona Coghlan said: “We’ve lost some players through retirement and injury, so I think we have to be realistic with a lot of new girls coming in.
“There’s a huge eagerness for the girls to learn, and there’s huge potential. Once they get into the flow of the games, they’ll really develop.
“With the Italians, they’re a team we never know much about from one year to the next. They’re always a side we struggle to play well against – they implement the gameplan that they want, and it takes us a while to get around it.
“Away from home, it’s never going to be easy. But I think if we just knuckle down and play the right gameplan, hopefully we’ll get off to a winning start.”
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v Italy Women, 2011 Women’s RBS 6 Nations, Rovigo, Sunday, February 6, kick-off 2.30pm local time/1.30pm Irish time):
15. Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster)
14. Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
13. Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile)
12. Geraldine Rea (Highfield/Munster) *
11. Mairead Kelly (UL Bohemians/Munster)
10. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
9. Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster)
1. Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt)
2. Gillian Bourke (Bristol/Munster)
3. Lauren Day (Waterloo/Ulster)
4. Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
5. Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster)
6. Carol Staunton (Galwegians/Connacht)
7. Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht)
8. Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster)
16. Stacey Kennedy (City of Derry/Ulster) *
17. Emer McManamly (Blackrock/Leinster)
18. Deirdre O’Brien (Blackrock/Leinster) *
19. Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster) *
20. Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exile) *
21. Gill Nolan (St. Mary’s/Leinster) *
22. Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Leinster)
* Denotes uncapped player
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