This season’s IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship starts on Sunday with defending champions Leinster visiting Connacht at the Sportsground, while Queen’s University is the venue for the meeting of Ulster and Munster.
2012/13 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 1 FIXTURES:
Sunday, December 2 –
ULSTER v MUNSTER, Queen’s University, 1pm
CONNACHT v LEINSTER, the Sportsground, 2pm
Head coach Niall Neville, head coach of reigning champions Leinster, has named a strong team for the opening match of their Interprovincial Championship title defence.
Leinster’s preparations have gone well with convincing wins in warm-up games over Connacht and the Irish Exiles.
The team has a new look to it this year with six new caps in the starting line-up to face the westerners this weekend, but with preparations going so well confidence is high in the camp.
Important backs include newcomer Jenny Murphy and Nora Stapleton, while up front captain Marie Louise O’Reilly and Ailis Egan are key figures.
Leinster have also named a talent-laden bench for the trip to Galway, with Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan and the likes of Emer McManamly and Paula Fitzpatrick offering great options for the management team.
Their opponents, Connacht, will be led by Portlaoise flyer Alison Miller who has shown herself to be a top class finisher at international level.
Last season despite some close games, the Connacht girls lost all three of their Interpro matches so in head coach Dave O’Brien’s first campaign in charge, they will determined to improve.
Galwegians stalwart Emer O’Dowd joins O’Brien on the sideline. Together, they have assembled a squad which plucks from the province’s growing ranks of clubs – among them Sligo, Tuam, Buccaneers, Galwegians and NUIG.
They are also boosted by the inclusion of a number of Tralee players. Miller, Carol Staunton and Sorcha Ni Chadhain will lead by example once again for an ever-improving Connacht panel.
Meanwhile, the return of Ireland international ace Amy Davis to the Ulster squad this season is a huge boost ahead of the start of the Interpro campaign.
Having represented Leinster in recent seasons, the versatile Davis, who has played at scrum half and on the wing for Ireland, is back with her native province.
This season’s Ulster squad is made up of players from Cooke, Queen’s University, Belfast Harlequins, City of Derry, Enniskillen, Newry, Blackrock and Sligo.
The northerners’ panel is captained by hooker Stacey-Lea Kennedy from City of Derry. She is backed up by vice captain Grace Davitt from Cooke.
The Ulster Women’s management team is headed up this term by Benjy van der Byl, Joy Sparkes and Susie Flemming.
Experience will count for a lot for Ulster and with Ireland internationals Kennedy, Davitt, Ashleigh Baxter, Nikki Caughey and Davis providing the back bone, the northerners are hoping to cause an upset or two along the way.
Munster head coach Gary Walsh is working with a total of 28 players for this year’s competition which includes 14 players from recently-crowned All-Ireland League Division 1 champions UL Bohemians.
There are eight players from Highfield, with Young Munster, Tralee, Nenagh, Shannon and Abbeyfeale also represented in the panel.
The side is captained by 2011/12 Munster Women’s Player of the Year Heather O’Brien from HIghfield and she is joined in the pack by the experienced former Munster and Ireland captain, number 8 Joy Neville.
Irish stars Neville, Niamh Briggs and Niamh Kavanagh will wield plenty of influence, while the likes of Laura Guest, Gill Bourke, O’Brien and Siobhan Fleming will also provide real strength and power up front.
ULSTER WOMEN: Amy Davis (Blackrock); Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Zoe Templeton (Belfast Harlequins); Grace Davitt (Cooke), Imogen Porter (Cooke); Isle Van Steden (Belfast Harlequins), Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry) (capt), Fiona O’Brien (Cooke), Sorcha Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Colette Broome (Queen’s University), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen’s University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke).
Replacements: Dani Boyd (Belfast Harlequins), Aoife Walsh (Queen’s University), Noreen Nethercott (Enniskillen), Lizzie Ballentine (Cooke), Kellie Holmes (City of Derry), Laura Feely (Sligo), Hannah Kilgore (City of Derry).
MUNSTER WOMEN: Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians); Ashling Hutchings (UL Bohemians), Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians), Laura O’Mahony (Tralee), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians); Nicole Fitzgerald (UL Bohemians), Louise Costello (UL Bohemians); Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians), Chris Fanning (Highfield), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians), Heather O’Brien (Highfield) (capt), Orlaith Buckley (Highfield), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians).
Replacements: Leah Barbour (UL Bohemians), Kathryn Buggy (Shannon), Karen Casey (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Young Munster), Clara Bracken (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Riona Kennedy (Tralee).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Emma Cleary (Galbally); Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers), Alison Miller (Portlaoise) (capt), Christine Arthurs (Tralee), Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians); Clare Raftery (Galwegians), Sorcha Ni Chadhain (Galwegians); Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians), Tanala Kehoe (Portlaoise), Beth Mallard (Galwegians), Heather Cary (Galwegians), Niamh Dempsey (Tralee), Michelle Barry (Tralee), Grainne Egan (Galwegians), Carol Staunton (Galwegians).
Replacements: Jean Moore (Portlaoise) Mary Rose Flanagan (UL Bohemians), Cliodhna Hughes (Old Belvedere), Marion Sheridan (Tuam), Ciara O’Connor (Tralee), Jacqui Mulligan (Sligo), Yvonne Delaney (portlaoise).
LEINSTER WOMEN: Carol Murphy (Old Belvedere); Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere), Sarah Jane Cody (UL Bohemians); Anne-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s), Fionnuala Gleeson (Old Belvedere), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere) (capt), Carmela Morey (Cill Dara), Aoife Ryan (Old Belvedere), Sharon Lynch (Garda).
Replacements: Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Ruth McElroy (Old Belvedere), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s), Emer McManamly (Blackrock), Roisin O’Donnell (Old Belvedere), Kim Flood (Railway Union), Claire Ryan (Railway Union).
– With thanks to Scrumqueens.com
MATCHES TO COME:
Saturday, December 8 –
LEINSTER v ULSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
MUNSTER v CONNACHT, Musgrave Park, 2.30pm
Saturday, December 15 –
LEINSTER v MUNSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
CONNACHT v ULSTER, the Sportsground, 2.30pm