The Ireland Women’s team to play Wales in their opening game of the Women’s RBS 6 Nations at Aberavon RFC on Sunday (kick-off 1.30pm) has been named.
Head coach Philip Doyle has selected Ireland’s most capped player, Lynne Cantwell, at out-half for the Championship opener. She will be partnered at half-back by Larissa Muldoon.
Niamh Briggs starts at full-back with Niamh Kavanagh and Alison Miller on the wings, while Grace Davitt and Jenny Murphy make up a new centre partnership.
Up front, captain Fiona Coghlan packs down alongside Gillian Bourke and Ailis Egan in the front row. Sophie Spence and Marie Louise Reilly form a strong second row.
Joy Neville, Claire Molloy and Laura Guest make up an exciting back row combination.
Speaking about his team selection and the campaign ahead, Doyle said: “It was an extremely difficult decision in selecting the 23 players for this weekend’s match and even more difficult in selecting the starting line-up.
“The players have been working very hard over the last number of months and they made my job very difficult in team selection.
“Qualification for the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup is dependent on the result from both this year’s and last year’s Six Nations, so we will be looking to raise the bar again this year in terms of our performances.
“We are under no illusions of the difficulty that this campaign will hold for us as all teams are looking to qualify for the WRWC which is the pinnacle of the fifteen-a-side game.”
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v Wales Women, 2013 Women’s RBS 6 Nations Championship, Aberavon RFC, Sunday, February 3, kick-off 1.30pm):
15. Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster)
14. Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster)
13. Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster)
12. Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
11. Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
10. Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exiles)
9. Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exiles)
1. Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt)
2. Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster)
3. Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
4. Sophie Spence (Mowden Park Sharks/Exiles)
5. Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
6. Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster)
7. Claire Molloy (Bristol/Exiles)
8. Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster)
16. Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry/Ulster)
17. Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster)
18. Lauren Day (Waterloo/Exiles)
19. Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster)
20. Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster)
21. Amy Davis (Blackrock College/Ulster)
22. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
23. Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)