Munster and defending champions Leinster, who were the winners over the opening weekend of the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship, will both have home advantage in the second round of matches in Cork and Meath.
2012/13 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 2 FIXTURES:
Saturday, December 8 –
LEINSTER v ULSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
MUNSTER v CONNACHT, Musgrave Park, 2.30pm
Leinster will continue the defence of their Interprovincial title on Saturday afternoon when they take on Ulster in round 2 of the Championship at Ashbourne RFC.
The game against Ulster comes just six days after their impressive 20-0 victory over Connacht in Galway saw the champions add to their impressive winning streak which, going into the Ashbourne encounter, stands at six games.
In the opener, there was an impressive display from Ailis Egan along with the trademark kicking of Nora Stapleton and the organisation of captain Marie Louise Reilly. Leinster’s defence as well as their offence matched the high standards they have set themselves in recent times.
Niall Neville’s team will certainly hope that their impressive strength, discipline and togetherness that has brought them so far will continue this weekend against an Ulster team who will be quietly confident of staging an upset.
Leinster will be boosted on Saturday by the return of Ireland players Paula Fitzpatrick and Fiona Coughlan, who is the current national captain.
Both have been passed fit to start against Ulster having featured in the second half against Connacht last time out.
Their experience and talent will be a welcome boost for Leinster as they look to make it two wins from two and keep their momentum going.
The selected Ulster team shows two personnel changes from their opening loss to Munster, along with a raft of positional changes in the back-line.
Talented Ireland full-back Ashleigh Baxter returns to wear the number 15 jersey of her home province, with fellow Test player Amy Davis shifting to outside centre.
Veteran centre Brenda Brogan has also been drafted in with Zoe Templeton and Noreen Nethercott dropping out of the squad.
Claire McLaughlin will partner the versatile Davis in midfield, while Nikki Caughey moves to the left wing in an effort to shore up Ulster’s wide defence.
Last weekend’s try scorers, Imogen Porter and Jemma Jackson, retain their positions at scrum half and right winger respectively.
Up front in the northerners’ pack, Lizzie Ballentine moves into second row and Kelly Holmes starts at blindside flanker with Sorcha Chipperfield and Shirelle Wilson dropping to the bench.
Meanwhile, Munster boss Gary Walsh has decided to go with an unchanged starting line-up for their home clash with Connacht at Musgrave Park.
Highfield’s Heather O’Brien, who captained Munster to a 36-10 opening win at Ulster, will lead the side again in Munster’s bid to reclaim the Interprovincial title.
The girls in red lost out to Leinster last season, bringing their six in-a-row Championship bid to a disappointing end.
There is one change to the replacements bench as Ireland international Laura Guest comes into the squad in place of Shannon’s Kathryn Buggy, who made her Munster debut last weekend along with Leah Barbour, Ciara Griffin and Riona Kennedy.
Connacht supremo Dave O’Brien has made a solitary change in personnel for the trip to Cork, trusting his charges to put right the second half stumble against Leinster last weekend.
Margaret Fitzgibbon lands back on the left wing after a thumb issue kept her out of the round 1 fixture at the Sportsground.
While eleventh-hour call-up Niamh Ni Dhroma handled her Connacht debut with aplomb last time out, Fitzgibbon’s experience will further bolster a Connacht back-line that surrendered nothing on one-on-defence against the reigning champions.
Ni Dhroma’s inclusion on the bench forces Portlaoise utility back Yvonne Delaney out the panel, an unfortunate scenario given Delaney too showed enterprising glimpses of her arsenal late in the game.
Such is the competition available this year that O’Brien welcomes the selection headache, one which seldom plagued previous Connacht coaches Lyndon Jones and Colm Power.
The raft of talent available this winter has afforded O’Brien and coaching colleague Emer O’Dowd an opportunity to stack the bench with genuine impact players, each able to spark on demand.
LEINSTER WOMEN: Carol Murphy (Old Belvedere); Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Kim Flood (Railway Union); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere), Sarah-Jane Cody (UL Bohemians); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Sharon Lynch (Garda), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere) (capt), Carmela Morey (Cill Dara), Aoife Ryan (Old Belvedere), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s).
Replacements: Deirdre O’Brien (UL Bohemians), Charlene Barter (UL Bohemians), Roisin O’Donnell (Old Belvedere), Carrie Hanley (Blackrock), Anne-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s), Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock), Fionnuala Gleeson (Old Belvedere).
ULSTER WOMEN: Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins); Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Amy Davis (Blackrock), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins); Grace Davitt (Cooke), Imogen Porter (Cooke); Ilse Van Staden (Belfast Harlequins), Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry) (capt), Fiona O’Brien (Cooke), Lizzie Ballentine (Cooke), Colette Broome (Queen’s University), Kellie Holmes (City of Derry), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen’s University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke).
Replacements: Laura Feely (Sligo), Sorcha Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Hannah Kilgore (City of Derry), Dani Boyd (Belfast Harlequins), Aoife Walsh (Queen’s University), Brenda Brogan (Enniskillen).
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), Laura Guest (Highfield), Karen Casey (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Clara Bracken (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Riona Kennedy (Tralee).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Emma Clery (Galbally); Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians), Alison Miller (Portlaoise) (capt), Christine Arthurs (Tralee), Margaret Fitzgibbon (Galwegians); Clare Raftery (Galwegians), Sorcha Ni Chadhain (Galwegians); Ruth 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), Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers).
MATCHES TO COME:
Saturday, December 15 –
LEINSTER v MUNSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
CONNACHT v ULSTER, the Sportsground, 2.30pm