The Leinster Women’s squad will begin their IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship campaign this weekend in the shadow of Ireland’s three tough November Series encounters with England, Canada and New Zealand.
The close proximity of the international series to Leinster’s opening fixture away to Connacht at Tuam RFC this Saturday (kick-off 2pm) does not leave too much leeway for the release of players back to their provinces.
The same pothole to preparations is there for all four provinces. It is just that Leinster will be more inconvenienced than the other three. Whatever about the players involved against England and Canada, it would seem prudent of the Ireland management to take a cautious approach to the release of the internationals from a typically physical battle against New Zealand at UCD last Sunday.
This is particularly relevant in the front five where Ireland’s Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Ailis Egan, Marie Louise Reilly and Orla Fitzsimons are likely to fall outside of Leinster’s reach unless released for bench duty.
Leinster and Munster have alternated as the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial champions in recent years, with Leinster completing a clean sweep of victories to lift the trophy in 2011/12. Munster managed the same feat in 2012/13, Leinster in 2013/14 and Munster in 2014/15. The trend was all set to continue last season only for Munster to spoil Leinster’s plans with a resolute 15-7 victory at Thomond Park last September, putting back-to-back titles together.
“It is a huge motivation for us. We want the title back,” said Leinster Women’s head coach Adam Griggs. “Over the last couple of years, it has always come down to the last game between Leinster and Munster.
“Again, Munster is the last of the three fixtures for us. We hope for the same scenario, to have it all on the line for that match in Donnybrook on December 17.”
Before they get there, Leinster will have to negotiate the threats posed by Connacht and Ulster. The westerners will be first up in Tuam this weekend, with Griggs stating: “From what we’ve gathered – we don’t have much information on any of the squads – we have gone off what the All-Ireland League clubs have shown.
“We expect Connacht to be very physical and we know they have a really good scrum half in Ireland’s Mary Healy. We are really going to have to mind her, if she is released. We can’t give her too much time and space on the ball to dictate the game.”
The middle-leg of the three matches will take place at Donnybrook on Saturday week where Ulster will be keen to make improvements. The New Zealander added: “Ulster would be one of the more direct teams, I would think. They will try to bring their physicality to us, take us on up front. For us, we have them at home on the 4G pitch. We will certainly be looking to move them around and really use the ball to attack on the edges.”
Griggs will have Ireland’s strong-running centre Jenny Murphy, just back from surgery, to provide real go-forward through the middle in what is otherwise a very young squad. ‘The Leinster way’ does not change from gender to gender and the coach will push for a positive outlook.
“We’re certainly very attack-based, using the width on the 4G pitch at Donnybrook where we will play our home games. We will look to play expansive rugby at a good pace because of the surface there and for the way we like to play anyway.
“We would encourage the girls to play what they see, to look for the opportunities in front of them and we back them to take an educated guess on the ball.”
LEINSTER WOMEN’S Squad: Jennie Finlay (Old Belvedere), Ann-Marie Rooney (Blackrock), Joanna Mahon (Blackrock), Lauren Retig (Suttonians), Manuela McCarthy (Blackrock), Caoimhe Molloy (Gorey), Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere), Susan Fogarty (Railway Union), Mairead Holohan (Blackrock), Kate McCarthy (Railway Union), Dawn Smith (Blackrock), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere), Juliet Short (Railway Union), Carmella Morey (Blackrock), Rachel Horan (CYM), Katie Norris (Blackrock), Niamh Griffin (Blackrock), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union), Michelle Claffey (Blackrock), Nicole Carroll (Suttonians), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere), Shauna O’Brien (Edenderry), Jane O’Neill (Kilkenny), Carrie Hanley (Blackrock), Eimear Corri (Blackrock), Niamh Byrne (Railway Union), Laura Mahon (MU Barnhall), Ali Coleman (Blackrock), Meaghan Kenny (Navan), Maria Kenny (Old Belvedere).
LEINSTER WOMEN – INTERPRO FIXTURES:
Saturday, December 3: Connacht Women v Leinster Women, Tuam RFC, 2pm
Saturday, December 10: Leinster Women v Ulster Women, Donnybrook, 6.30pm
Saturday, December 17: Leinster Women v Munster Women, Donnybrook, 2.30pm