The IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship comes to a thrilling conclusion this afternoon as heavyweights Leinster and Munster meet to decide the winners of this season’s title. Meanwhile, Connacht and Ulster will battle it out for third spot.
2012/13 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 3 FIXTURES:
Saturday, December 15 –
LEINSTER v MUNSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
CONNACHT v ULSTER, the Sportsground, 2.30pm
The final round of the 2012 Women’s Interpros once again sets up Leinster against old rivals Munster in a ‘winner takes all’ match at Ashbourne RFC on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues take to the pitch with several changes made by head coach Niall Neville, including the welcome return of centre Shannon Houston who was a late withdrawal for last weekend’s victory over Ulster.
Munster’s clinical dispatching of Ulster and Connacht places them as very strong contenders and Leinster will hope for a more consistent performance than their stuttering display against Ulster.
This should be one cracking encounter where supporters can enjoy the Leinster v Clermont Auvergne Heineken Cup match in the clubhouse straight after the Women’s game.
Meanwhile, Munster make the trip to the County Meath venue as the table toppers. They are level on nine points with Leinster at the summit, but boast a better scoring difference from the opening two rounds.
Indeed, the girls in red have run in nine tries and conceded none so far in the Series. These two sides last met in Cork back in the 2011/12 Championship shootout where Leinster took home a 25-5 victory, thus ending Munster’s five in-a-row title reign.
Munster head coach Gary Walsh has made one change to the squad that claimed a 24-3 win over Connacht last Saturday at Musgrave Park – Riona Kennedy from Tralee make way for Shannon’s Kathryn Buggy in the replacements.
Speaking on behalf of the Munster squad, Amanda Greensmith said: “We are under no illusion of the tough challenge that we will face on Saturday, however we are confident our preparations have been going well and we have been very satisfied with our performance throughout our recent wins over Connacht and Ulster.
“We have a number of international experienced players on our side as well as many young players, some of which have come through our underage structure.
“It is always a hard-fought encounter against Leinster who are also undefeated this season and we are looking forward to Saturday’s game where we will hope to regain the title.”
Having picked up a losing bonus point against Leinster, Ulster will be hoping to finish their campaign on a high by beating Connacht for third place in Galway.
The improving visitors will field an unchanged starting line-up, but there are two changes on the replacements bench Noreen Nethercott and Zoe Templeton returning to the squad in place of Kellie Holmes and Brenda Brogan respectively.
Connacht have only scored a solitary penalty goal so far this term – last weekend against Munster – but showed plenty of mettle against defending champions Leinster in week one.
Their head coach Dave O’Brien has been impressed throughout with the squad’s preparations and he was pleased with the first half showing against Leinster, however, he is yet to see that flair for prolonged periods.
Possessing a front row to rival any Connacht has fielded in the last decade, a halves combination not far off international standard, and plenty of cover from inside centre to full-back, it certainly points to a battle royale at the Sportsground.
Grace Davitt of Ulster and Connacht’s Clare Raftery, opposing each other at out-half, are two of the smartest tactical kickers in the country. Making opportunities as far as territory goes rests largely on their shoulders.
Their half-back partners, Imogen Porter and Sorcha Ni Chadhain, are both equally adept at bossing about their respective packs of forwards.
Out wide Ulster boasts two internationals in Ashleigh Baxter and Nikki Caughey, and the pair are well matched by Connacht captain and Ireland star Alison Miller.
Connacht won the sides’ last clash in the western province, but Ulster will travel with the bragging rights having pipped them 15-12 at Ballymoney RFC in September 2011.
LEINSTER WOMEN: Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock); Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Elise O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere), Charlene Barter (UL Bohemians); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Fionnuala Gleeson (Old Belvedere), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere) (capt), Sharon Lynch (Garda), Aoife Ryan (Old Belvedere), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s).
Replacements: Deirdre O’Brien (UL Bohemians), Roisin O’Donnell (Old Belvedere), Emer McManamly (Blackrock), Anne-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s), Carmela Morey (Cill Dara), Sarah-Jane Cody (UL Bohemians), Kim Flood (Railway Union).
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), Laura Guest (Highfield), Karen Casey (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Clara Bracken (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield).
CONNACHT WOMEN: to be confirmed
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), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen’s University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke).
Replacements: Laura Feely (Sligo), Sorcha Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Hannah Kilgore (City of Derry), Noreen Nethercott (Enniskillen), Dani Boyd (Belfast Harlequins), Aoife Walsh (Queen’s University), Zoe Templeton (Belfast Harlequins).