The Ireland Women’s team, sponsored by Aon, to face Australia in their first match of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 at the UCD Bowl on Wednesday (kick-off 7pm) has been announced.
Compared to the Ireland side that played England in March’s Grand Slam decider, head coach Tom Tierney has made four personnel changes and two positional switches with Ashleigh Baxter and Heather O’Brien both making welcome returns to 15s international rugby.
Baxter, who is part of the IRFU Women’s Sevens programme, was the youngest member of Ireland’s 2014 World Cup squad which claimed a best ever finish of fourth. She was a winger back then, but the 25-year-old has converted to the back row in the past year and will start at blindside flanker tomorrow.
Cork woman O’Brien, another star performer from the 2014 tournament, will pack down at number 8 with the back row trio completed by newly-appointed World Cup captain Claire Molloy. It will be O’Brien’s first competitive start for Ireland since the 2016 Six Nations.
Sophie Spence and Ciara Griffin are the two players to make way with Paula Fitzpatrick, who captained Ireland during this year’s Six Nations campaign, moving from number 8 to the second row where she links up with the towering Marie Louise Reilly.
Cliodhna Moloney, who has been preferred to Leah Lyons at hooker, and her Railway Union club-mate Lindsay Peat will make their Women’s Rugby World Cup debuts in the front row, teaming up with experienced tighthead Ailis Egan.
Donegal-born half-back duo Nora Stapleton and Larissa Muldoon, who have 86 caps between them, will lead an exciting back-line which includes three more WRWC newcomers in Sene Naoupu, who resumes her centre partnership with Jenny Murphy, Clare flyer Eimear Considine, who comes in on the right wing, and Hannah Tyrrell who makes the switch to full-back in the absence of injured captain Niamh Briggs.
The ever-threatening Alison Miller will win her 37th cap on the left wing, while it will be Considine’s second start and third cap for Ireland after her debut against Scotland in February. Galwegians and Connacht props Ruth O’Reilly and Ciara O’Connor join Lyons as the front row reserves, and the selected bench also includes uncapped scrum half Nicole Cronin and fellow Ireland Sevens international Katie Fitzhenry.
Looking forward to launching Ireland’s WRWC 2017 campaign, Tierney said: “The squad are very excited to get the tournament underway. They’ve had excellent preparation and things have really come together since arriving into UCD on Saturday afternoon and everyone’s been extremely focused on their role and the challenge ahead.
“The Australians are a good team and we’ll have to be very good for the opening game. The players are all very clear on the challenges that the Wallaroos pose.
“However, this is a home World Cup and we’re confident that the crowd will get behind us tomorrow evening, which will be an added benefit for us, and we’re all looking forward to getting the tournament up and running.”
Wednesday’s opening Pool C game between Ireland and Australia will be broadcast live on television in the Republic of Ireland by eir Sport 1 and RTÉ Two, and in the UK by ITV 4. RTÉ 2fm will have live commentary on radio. There will be live streaming available on www.rwcwomens.com in selected regions.
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v Australia, 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup – Pool C, UCD Bowl, Wednesday, August 9, kick-off 7pm):
15. Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
14. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster)
13. Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
12. Sene Naoupu (Harlequins)
11. Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
10. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
9. Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Ulster)
1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster)
2. Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster)
3. Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
4. Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
5. Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
6. Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
7. Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht) (capt)
8. Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster)
16. Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster)
17. Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht)
18. Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht)
19. Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
20. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
21. Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
22. Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
23. Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht)
* Denotes uncapped player
IRELAND WOMEN’S WORLD CUP – POOL C SCHEDULE:
Wednesday, August 9
Ireland v Australia, UCD Bowl, 7pm
Sunday, August 13
Ireland v Japan, UCD Bowl, 5.15pm
Thursday, August 17
France v Ireland, UCD Bowl, 7.45pm
Where To Watch – WRWC 2017 Broadcast Information
For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for the #WRWC2017 finals stages now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.