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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

WRWC 2017 Team News: Match Day 1

WRWC 2017 Team News: Match Day 1

The twelve national head coaches are revealing their starting line-ups for tomorrow’s opening day of action in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup. The teams for the six matches are listed below, as they come in.

2017 WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP – MATCH DAY 1: Wednesday, August 9

POOL A –

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NEW ZEALAND v WALES, Billings Park, 2.45pm

Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, a late try scorer off the bench against England in June, will don the number 10 jersey for four-time champions New Zealand in their opening WRWC 2017 clash with Wales.

The Counties Manukau talent will start at half-back alongside star scrum half Kendra Cocksedge, with Kelly Brazier moving to midfield where she is partnered by exciting 21-year-old Stacey Waaka whose gliding run has been described as Christian Cullen-like.

The Black Ferns’ selection is a a mix of experience and fresh talent with captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili leading her team in her fifth World Cup, others returning for their second or third Cup, and some who have a handful of Test matches under their belts. Selica Winiata, Portia Woodman and Sarah Goss, who have all starred in the Sevens game, are three players to look out for.

Newcomer Rebecca Wood, the North Harbour powerhouse who works as a firefighter, will start at lock having impressed head coach Glenn Moore with her strength and skill level. It will be Wood’s third cap after making his debut during the Women’s International Series in New Zealand in June.

Praising Wood, who turns 30 today, and speaking about the team, Moore said: “Becky is a total workhorse and thoroughly deserves her start despite her lack of Test caps. She has continued to raise the bar of her performance every week.

“This team has real depth and I’m confident we have the mix right. Our reserves will be critical too. They will come out and make a significant change to the game. I’m excited to see this team go.

“The players are ready to go. The feeling in the camp is one of genuine excitement and our trainings have had a real steely edge and focus. We’ve got a job to do and that’s to put together a performance that we’re all proud of. If we can achieve that then the outcome will take care of itself.”

In what will be only the second game of the tournament in Ireland, Wales head coach Rowland Phillips has selected a back-line full of guile, complemented by a strong pack captained by Carys Phillips, to compete with the Black Ferns.

The back-three is made up of full-back Dyddgu Hywel and wingers Jasmine Joyce and Elen Evans. The 20-year-old Hannah Jones – one of the standout Wales Sevens players this season – starts in midfield alongside outside centre Gemma Rowland. Scrum half Keira Bevan (pictured below) partners Elinor Snowsill at half-back.

Hooker Phillips is joined in the front row by loosehead prop Caryl Thomas and tighthead Amy Evans, with Rebecca Rowe and Mel Clay named in the second row. They are bolstered by blindside flanker Alisha Butchers, openside Rachel Taylor and number 8 Sioned Harries.

There is a place on the bench for uncapped 17-year-old back rower Lleucu George, whilst hooker Kelsey Jones, who is 18, could also be in line to make her debut for the Wales Women.

Coach Phillips said: “We’ve set out a path to take Women’s rugby in Wales to new heights, and while that goes well beyond New Zealand tomorrow, the Black Ferns are an excellent team to test yourself against. They’re one of the perennial favourites, and for good reason, but we’ll be aiming to impose our game on them with the mindset of an 80-minute performance.”

Each of the competing nations is based on the UCD campus for the duration of the pool stages. Phillips praised the facilities at Belfield, before adding that the squad are excited to see some familiar faces at the Billings Park venue come Wednesday afternoon. “We’re expecting a strong Welsh crowd tomorrow, and the messages of good luck we’ve been receiving from back home have been greatly appreciated by the squad. We’re hoping to do Wales proud with our performance.”

In further player news, Welsh centre Rebecca De Filippo has unfortunately been ruled out of the tournament following a foot injury suffered in training. She will be replaced by the 18-year-old India Berbillion. 

“Rebecca was always going to be a strong contender for a starting berth in the team, making her withdrawal very disappointing for all concerned,” commented Phillips. “That said, it’s testament to her character that she has remained upbeat despite the setback and has continued to be a positive influence within the camp.”

NEW ZEALAND: Selica Winiata (Manawatu); Portia Woodman (Counties Manukau), Stacey Waaka (Waikato), Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty), Renee Wickliffe (Counties Manukau); Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali (Counties Manukau), Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury); Toka Natua (Waikato), Fiao’o Faamausili (Auckland) (capt), Aldora Itunu (Auckland), Eloise Blackwell (Auckland), Rebecca Wood (North Harbour), Charmaine Smith (North Harbour), Sarah Goss (Manawatu), Aroha Savage (Counties Manukau).

Replacements: Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate (Counties Manukau), Sosoli Talawadua (Waikato), Aotearoa Mata’u (Counties Manukau), Lesley Ketu (Bay of Plenty), Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland), Kristina Sue (Manawatu), Theresa Fitzpatrick (Auckland), Carla Hohepa (Waikato).

WALES: Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets); Elen Evans (RGC), Gemma Rowland (Dragons), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets); Elinor Snowsill (Dragons), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Scarlets), Carys Phillips (Ospreys) (capt), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Rebecca Rowe (Dragons), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Rachel Taylor (RGC), Sioned Harries (Scarlets).

Replacements: Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Meg York (Dragons), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Sian Moore (Dragons), Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys), Jodie Evans (Scarlets).

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)

CANADA v HONG KONG, Billings Park, 5.15pm

Canada captain Kelly Russell will win her 49th international cap as the 2014 WRWC runners-up launch their bid for glory in Ireland against Hong Kong, the Pool A outsiders.

Russell (30) and sister Laura (28) fill two key roles in a settled pack at number 8 and hooker respectively. Latoya Blackwood, who missed the June series in New Zealand through injury, returns in the second row with Tyson Beukeboom making way.

33-cap veteran Andrea Burk (pictured below) is also back to full fitness and will take her place in midfield alongside World Cup rookie Alex Tessier, who is 23. The 24-year-old Lori Josephson, who started against England and Australia recently, will also make her WRWC debut, pairing up with the experienced Emily Belchos at half-back. Chelsea Guthrie is sidelined with a hip flexor injury.

Regular full-back Julianne Zussman is nursing a neck injury and is another notable absentee, so Belchos’ Westshore club-mate Elissa Alarie, Canada’s vice-captain, switches to number 15 where she forms an all-French Canadian back-three along with Magali Harvey, the 2014 World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year, and Federique Rajotte.

Head coach Francois Ratier has included 14 players in his matchday squad who lined out for the 2014 final defeat to England. Among them are ever-influential flankers Jacey Grusnick and Karen Paquin who join skipper Russell in a consistently strong back row unit.

Looking forward to Canada’s first ever international encounter with Hong Kong, out-half Belchos said: “We arrived in Ireland two weeks ago and had our pre-tournament camp outside of the city at Johnstown Estate and it’s been going well. Our team is really connected and we’re excited to get our campaign underway on Wednesday.

“We have a large group of returning players from the last World Cup in 2014 so it’s a confident environment because a lot of us have been here before. We don’t know very much about Hong Kong, so we’re just trying to focus on our performance and, if we play our game we should be successful on Wednesday.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong head coach Jo Hull is looking for a mix of relentless defence and free-flowing attack in her side’s historic WRWC debut match against Canada. “Canada are going to come out the blocks, I think there is quite a lot of pressure on them to put in a performance in their first game,” she said.

“We’re expecting them to be very fast and we know their back row and centre combinations are very physical. I think they will hit the ground running, they have obviously had quite a good build-up to this being in New Zealand so they will know what they want to achieve out of this tournament.

“I think mindset-wise the girls are ready for the game, we’re ready for it but it is the application that is really going to be the challenge. They’ve got the knowledge, it’s just that application and being able to play with them for 80 minutes against a team like Canada that like to run with the ball in hand.

“Our defence is capable of standing up to it and it is important that we get it right with our tackles and how quickly we can reload. For sure it’s going to be a challenge but that is what we have worked on and that is what our focus is ultimately going to be on.”

Adrienne Garvey and Natasha Olson-Thorne will pair up in the centre, with Laurel Chor Lik-fung and the 18-year-old Kelsie Bouttle starting on the bench. Hull recognises them all as assets to the team. Captain Chow Mei-nam, tighthead prop Lee Ka-shun and hooker Karen So Hoi-ting will lead the way in a forward pack that Hull is looking for an even contribution from.

She feels her side may be able to get on top in the set piece, highlighting the scrum and the lineout as areas her forwards must target.

“I think potentially our set piece might go okay in terms of the scrum and in terms of our height. I think also the breakdown could go in our favour a little bit. Shun is key, she’ll hold the scrum for us pretty well, in fact our whole front row is important.

“The back row is going to be absolutely instrumental, really all the forwards have got a massive job because if we don’t get any stability and we don’t get any go-forward in the scrum, it’s going to be a difficult day for us.”

CANADA: Elissa Alarie (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC/Westshore RFC); Magali Harvey (Club de Rugby de Quebec), Alex Tessier (Montreal Barbarians), Andrea Burk (Capilano RFC), Frederique Rajotte (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC); Emily Belchos (Westshore RFC), Lori Josephson (Aurora Barbarians); Carolyn McEwen (Burnaby Lake RFC), Laura Russell (Toronto Nomads/Cowichan RFC), DaLeaka Menin (Calgary Hornets), Kayla Mack (Saskatoon Wild Oats), Latoya Blackwood (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC/Westshore RFC), Jacey Grusnick (Barrhaven Scottish), Karen Paquin (Club de Rugby de Quebec/Castaway Wanderers), Kelly Russell (Toronto Nomads/Cowichan RFC) (capt).

Replacements: Jane Kirby (Highland Fergus Rugby Club), Brittany Kassil (Guelph Redcoats), Olivia DeMerchant (Woodstock Wildmen/Castaway Wanderers), Tyson Beukeboom (Aurora Barbarians/Cowichan RFC), Cindy Nelles (Belleville Bulldogs), Brianna Miller (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC/Westshore RFC), Amanda Thornborough (Westshore RFC), Brittany Waters (Meraloma Athletic Club/Castaway Wanderers).

HONG KONG: Colleen Tjosvold (Valley); Aggie Poon Pak-yan (Gai Wu), Adrienne Garvey (Valley), Natasha Olson-Thorne (USRC Tigers), Chong Ka-yan (Gai Wu); Rose Hopewell-Fong (HKFC), Jessica Ho (SRC Tigers); Wong Yuen-shan (USRC Tigers/EdUHK), Karen So Hoi-ting (Valley), Lee Ka-shun (Gai Wu), Chow Mei-nam (Gai Wu) (capt), Chan Ka-yan (Gai Wu), Christy Cheng Ka-chi (Gai Wu), Chan Tsz-ching (Tai Po Dragons/HKBU), Amelie Seure (Valley).

Replacements: Winnie Siu Wing-ni (USRC Tigers), Lau Nga-wun (Gai wu), Pun Wai-yan (Gai Wu/EdUHK), Christine Gordon (Kowloon), Tsang Sin-yan (Kowloon), Chloe Mak Ho-yee (Kowloon), Kelsie Bouttle (Valley/ICHK), Laurel Chor Lik-fung (Valley).

Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)

POOL B –

ENGLAND v SPAIN, UCD Bowl, 2pm

England head coach Simon Middleton has named his side to take on Spain in the opening match of WRWC 2017. The Red Roses are the defending champions and are ranked the number one side in the world off the back of a nine-match winning streak.

Bristol number 8 Sarah Hunter leads a team that includes nine players who will make their Women’s Rugby World Cup debuts in Dublin – amongst them are Vickii Cornborough, Heather Kerr, Sarah Bern, Harriett Millar-Mills, Izzy Noel-Smith, Abbie Scott and Zoe Aldcroft who all start in the pack.

In the backs Megan Jones and Leanne Riley, who both featured in England’s successful three-Test tour in New Zealand in June, will also make their first World Cup appearances.

On a 392-cap bench, forwards Poppy Cleall, Amy Cokayne and Justine Lucas could take the number of World Cup newcomers up to 12 if they feature, while star centre Emily Scarratt, who won the World Cup three years ago, is set to make her 70th appearance if she comes on as a replacement. Fellow backs Danielle Waterman and Rachael Burford will be making their fourth World Cup appearances having played in every tournament since 2006.

“We are really happy with the way our tournament preparation has gone and the squad have worked really hard over the past number of months,” said Middleton. “Now it’s about translating that hard work and preparation and delivering performance on the pitch. We have a strong squad and want to use the full depth available to us throughout the tournament. We’re looking forward to getting underway.”

The Red Roses played Spain, who are ranked eighth in the world, at the last Women’s World Cup in France where they posted a comfortable 45-5 victory in the pool stages.

Hooker Aroa Gonzalez will take her Spanish caps record to 69 Tests when she leads ‘las Leonas’ into battle at Belfield. She is flanked in the front row by Saioa Jaurena and Saracens tighthead Jeanina Vinueza, who have 13 caps between them.

Berta Garcia and Maria Ribera, who were part of Spain’s 2016 Olympics squad, link up together in the second row, while the triumvirate of Diana Gasso, Paula Medin and Elena Redondo will have it all to do against the Hunter-led English back row.

Accomplished Sevens star Patricia Garcia will be looking to unleash her box of tricks from half-back where she is joined by talented teenager Anne Fernandez de Corres, who has an old head on young shoulders. The 19-year-old Fernandez is the only member of Spain’s starting back-line who was not involved with the Sevens side in Rio.

The 20-year-old Amaia Erbina is another young starlet who has been backed to deliver by head coach Jose Antonio Barrio. She partners her Cisneros club-mate Marina Bravo in midfield, with 34-year-old full-back Barbara Pla winning cap number 49 of her 15s career. Maria Ahis, from national champions Olimpico de Pozuelo, is poised to make her debut as a replacement.

ENGLAND: Danielle Waterman (Bristol); Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Megan Jones (Bristol), Rachael Burford (Harlequins), Kay Wilson (Richmond); Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Leanne Riley (Harlequins); Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins), Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Sarah Bern (Bristol), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol), Sarah Hunter (Bristol) (capt).

Replacements: Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries), Justine Lucas (Lichfield), Poppy Cleall (Bristol), Alex Matthews (Richmond), La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Amber Reed (Bristol), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield).

SPAIN: Barbara Pla (Getxo RT); Maria Casado (INEF Barcelona), Amaia Erbina (CR Cisneros), Marina Bravo (CR Cisneros), Iera Echebarria (Olimpico de Pozuelo); Patricia Garcia (FER), Anne Fernandez de Corres (CR Cisneros); Saioa Jaurena (Getxo RT), Aroa Gonzalez (INEF Barcelona) (capt), Jeanina Vinueza (Saracens RFC), Berta Garcia (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Maria Ribera (XV Sanse Scrum), Diana Gasso (Gotics RC), Paula Medin (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Elena Redondo (Gent RFC).

Replacements: Isabel Rico (Olimpico de Pozuelo), Isabel Macias (Olimpico de Pozuelo), Rocio Garcia (Lalin RC), Monico Castelo (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Angela del Pan (INEF Barcelona), Maria Ahis (Olimpico de Pozuelo), Vanesa Rial (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Carlota Meliz (XV Sanse Scrum).

Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa)

USA v ITALY, UCD Bowl, 4.30pm

Italy may be lacking in World Cup experience – this is their first appearance at this level in 15 years – but head coach Andrea di Giandomenico can still select a starting XV that boasts a hugely impressive tally of 630 Test caps.

149 of those come from the season half-back pairing of Veronica Schiavon and Sara Barattin, the Azzurre captain. Schiavon (pictured below) is one of two WRWC 2002 veterans in the side, the other being fellow 35-year-old Silvia Gaudino who packs down at number 8.

Schiavon’s return has relegated in-form youngster Beatrice Rigoni to the bench, while Manuela Furlan and Michela Sillari, who won the English Women’s Premiership title with Aylesford Bulls last season, are joined by Monza’s Maria Magatti in a potent back-three.

Melissa Bettoni from Stade Rennais shows her versatility by moving to tighthead prop, having scored two tries from hooker against Scotland in the final round of this year’s Six Nations. In the engine room, Flavia Severin, who has also represented her country in boxing, will win her 50th cap.

Isabella Locatelli, who moves from the second row to blindside flanker, is the least experienced member of the team with 11 caps. The 22-year-old Sara Tounesi – a lock from Colorno – could make her debut off the bench, while Valeria Fedrighi and Veronica Madia, with five caps between them, will also be itching to make an impact if introduced.

Meanwhile, New York prop Tiffany Faaee will captain a USA side that sees six changes to the one that defeated the Women’s Premier League All-Stars last month. Hooker Katy Augustyn comes in to start and there is a new-look back row.

Blindside flanker Sara Parsons keeps hold of her number 6 jersey, but will be aided around the breakdown by fellow flanker Kate Zackary and number 8 Jordan Gray. The three loose forwards have spent time on the World Rugby Sevens Series, and should cover plenty of ground on Wednesday.

There is a familiar look to the half-back pairing of Deven Owsiany (pictured below) and Kimber Rozier, with veteran Sylvia Braaten completing the 9-10-12 axis. Fellow centre Nicole Heavirland is one of four full-time US Eagles Sevens representatives in the starting line-up, with a couple more ready to make an impact off the bench.

The three other regulars on the World Sevens Series circuit are outside backs. Cheta Emba’s inclusion at full-back makes for an extremely fleet-footed back-three. The Harvard graduate will be flanked by the flying Naya Tapper and Kristen Thomas, both of whom have proven to be potent finishers in both codes of the game.

American head coach Pete Steinberg said: “We’re excited after our month together to finally get to play. We know Italy is going to be a good challenge and that they’ve got a lot of international experience, but we’re excited about the potential this team has.

“We’re inexperienced but we’re athletic, and we have to grow into the World Cup. The players have worked really hard, and we’ve had two really good days of practice leading into this game. We’re looking forward to playing together, and showing the world what the US can do.”

This will be the Women’s Eagles’ second ever international encounter with Italy. The first fixture between the two countries came in 2012 when the US pulled off a 34-20 victory in Rome. The 14-point win saw Augustyn and Rozier make their international debuts.

USA: Cheta Emba (Women’s Eagles Sevens); Naya Tapper (Women’s Eagles Sevens), Nicole Heavirland (Women’s Eagles Sevens), Sylvia Braaten (Twin Cities Amazons), Kristen Thomas (Women’s Eagles Sevens); Kimber Rozier (Scion Sirens), Deven Owsiany (San Diego Surfers); Catie Benson (Life West), Katy Augustyn (Berkeley All Blues), Tiffany Faaee (New York Rugby Club) (capt), Stacey Bridges (Twin Cities Amazons), Alycia Washington (New York Rugby Club), Sara Parsons (Northern Virginia Rugby), Kate Zackary (San Diego Surfers), Jordan Gray (Life West).

Replacements: Samantha Pankey (San Diego Surfers), Nai Reddick (Seattle Saracens), Hope Rogers (San Diego Surfers), Abby Gustaitis (Northern Virginia Rugby), Kristine Sommer (Seattle Saracens), Kayla Canett-Oca (Pennsylvania State University), Alev Kelter (Women’s Eagles Sevens), Jessica Javelet (Women’s Eagles Sevens).

ITALY: Manuela Furlan (Unattached); Michela Sillari (Harlequins), Maria Grazia Cioffi (Rugby Colorno), Sofia Stefan (Stade Rennais), Maria Magatti (Rugby Monza 1949); Veronica Schiavon (Yokohama TKM), Sara Barattin (Villorba Rugby) (capt); Elisa Cucchiella (Rugby Belve Neroverdi), Lucia Cammarano (Asd Rugby Monza 1949), Melissa Bettoni (Stade Rennais), Flavia Severin (Benetton Treviso), Alice Trevisan (Rugby Riviera 1975), Isabella Locatelli (Rugby Monza 1949), Elisa Giordano (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Silvia Gaudino (Rugby Monza 1949).

Replacements: Marta Ferrari (Stade Rennais), Lucia Gai (Stade Rennais), Sara Tounesi (Rugby Colorno), Valeria Fedrighi (Verona Rugby), Ilaria Arrighetti (Stade Rennais), Beatrice Rigoni (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Paola Zangirolami (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Veronica Madia (Rugby Colorno).

Referee: Alhamra Nievas (Spain)

POOL C –

IRELAND v AUSTRALIA, UCD Bowl, 7pm

Compared to the Ireland team 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.”

Meanwhile, Mahalia Murphy and Trilleen Pomare will make their Wallaroos debuts in Australia’s World Cup opener, starting on the left wing and at out-half respectively when they line out against host nation Ireland.

The highly-rated Murphy is one of three Australia Sevens stars named in the starting XV, with Shannon Parry captaining the side from openside flanker and Sharni Williams featuring inside breakout star Kayla Sauvao in the centre.

Liz Patu, Cheyenne Campbell and Hilisha Samoa will form a powerful all-Queensland front row, with Chloe Butler and Millie Boyle pairing up in the second row. The 13-times capped Rebecca Clough and Ashleigh Hewson, who is the most-capped Wallarroo in the current squad with 15 Tests behind her, have to be content with places on the bench.

Mollie Gray makes her return to international rugby at blindside flanker alongside Parry and Grace Hamilton, who will start at number 8. Gray suffering an horrific knee injury in February when she damaged her anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament, dislocated her kneecap and suffered cartilage damage. 

Katrina Barker and WA product Pomare form a new-look half-back combination, with Murphy, Nareta Masters and Samantha Treherne adding plenty of pace to the back-three.

Australia head coach Paul Verrell said: “Nine changes since the last game against Canada in June but the Sevens players have come in, I think we have a good mix of youth and some older players that I think will challenge Ireland.

“Everyone is telling us it’s going to be very loud, it’s a sell-out for the home nation. I’m just trying to get it into the girls’ heads that once the ball has been kicked off, it’s just another game. We will do what we have prepared for, make sure we stick to how we are trying to play the game and just stay in the game for 80 minutes.

“All the pressure is on them – they’re the home nation hosting the World Cup – if we’re in front in the last 10 or 15 minutes, all the pressure is on them and that’s what we will be aiming to do.”

IRELAND: Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster); Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Ulster); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht) (capt), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster).

Replacements: Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht).

AUSTRALIA: Samantha Treherne (Queensland/Sunnybank); Nareta Marsters (Queensland/Sunnybank), Kayla Sauvao (Sydney/Parramatta), Sharni Williams (Australia Sevens/ACT/Canberra Royals), Mahalia Murphy (Australia Sevens/NSW/Campbelltown); Trilleen Pomare (Western Australia/Wanneroo), Katrina Barker (NSW Country/Newcastle University); Liz Patu (Queensland/Wests), Cheyenne Campbell (Queensland/Redlands), Hilisha Samoa (Queensland/Brothers), Chloe Butler (South Australia/Parramatta), Millie Boyle (ACT/Canberra Royals), Mollie Gray (Australian Defence Force/NSW/Maitland), Shannon Parry (Australia Sevens/Queensland/Redlands) (capt), Grace Hamilton (Sydney/Sydney University).

Replacements: Emily Robinson (Sydney/Warringah), Violeta Tupuola (ACT/Canberra Royals), Hana Ngaha (Queensland/Sunnybank), Rebecca Clough (Western Australia/Cottesloe), Alisha Hewett (Australian Defence Force/Queensland/GPS), Fenella Hake (Queensland/Redlands), Sarah Riordan (Australian Defence Force/Victoria/Melbourne Unicorns), Ashleigh Hewson (Sydney/Sydney University).

Referee: Tim Baker (Hong Kong)

FRANCE v JAPAN, Billings Park, 7.45pm

Stade Rennais’ Caroline Drouin, who only turned 21 a month ago, has secured the number 10 jersey for France’s WRWC opener against Japan, which will bring day 1 to a close at the UCD Bowl.

The youngster (pictured below) had held off stiff competition to start in the pivotal position alongside Yanna Rivoalen, who was part of les Bleues’ 2014 World Cup squad. Head coach Samuel Cherouk had handed Montpellier’s Montserrat Amedee (21) her debut at full-back, as well as giving a number of other youngsters a chance to impress on the opening night.

Amedee has big boots to fill at number 15. She comes in for Jessy Trémoulière whose World Cup hopes were ended by injury. Trémoulière scored a try and kicked 14 points last time out against Wales, so it will be up to the likes of Drouin and Amedee to step up in Belfield.

The rest of France’s chosen back-line is along expected lines, although Elodie Guiglion – another returning player from the 2014 tournament – has been preferred on the right wing to fellow Sevens international Chloé Pelle who drops to the bench.

From the side that saw off the Welsh 39-19 in the last round of the Six Nations, 21-year-old loosehead Annaëlle Deshayes and powerful lock Lenaïg Corson, who weigh in at a combined 179 kg, come back into the French XV, while Bobigny’s Julie Annery (22) gets the nod over Marjorie Mayans in the back row.

Centres Caroline Ladagnous and Elodie Poublan form a key attacking combination for the 2014 WRWC hosts, who are captained again by streetwise hooker Gaëlle Mignot and will look for a big shift from strong-carrying number 8 Safi N’Diaye.

N’Diaye’s individual battle with Japan’s Fijian-born number 8 Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave should be one to savour as the Asian champions return to the Women’s Rugby World Cup stage for the first time since 2002.

Goshi Arimizu’s side – captained by Pearls hooker Seina Saito – retained their Asian title over two legs against Hong Kong last month, and they return to UCD where they ran Ireland close in two valuable trial games earlier in the summer.

If France have opted for a youthful selection, the Japanese have gone even younger with high school scrum half Moe Tsukui, who only celebrated her 17th birthday in late March, combining with Minori Yamamoto at half-back. Mayu Shimuzu (19), Iroha Nagata (18) and Honoka Tsutsumi (20) are part of a lively back-line which thrives on high-tempo play.

Starting centre Makiko Tomita and flanker Ayaka Suzuki played for the Japanese Sevens team at last year’s Olympics in Rio, as did reserve back rower Aya Nakajima. Half of Japan’s starting pack are aged between 20 and 23, with skipper Saito and Bogidraumainadave – or ‘Laite’ as she is known to her team-mates – steering the ship up front.

FRANCE: Montserrat Amedee (Montpellier RC/FFR); Elodie Guiglion (FFR), Caroline Ladagnous (AC Bobigny 93/FFR), Elodie Poublan (Montpellier RC), Caroline Boujard (Montpellier RC); Caroline Drouin (Stade Rennais), Yanna Rivoalen (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois); Annaëlle Deshayes (Ovalie Caennaise), Gaëlle Mignot (Montpellier RC) (capt), Julie Duval (Ovalie Caennaise), Céline Ferer (AS Bayonne), Lenaïg Corson (Stade Rennais/FFR), Julie Annery (AC Bobigny 93), Romane Menager (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois), Safi N’Diaye (Montpellier RC).

Replacements: Caroline Thomas (ASM Romagnat), Lise Arricastre (Lons Rugby Féminin Béarn Pyrénées), Patricia Carricaburu (Lons Rugby Féminin Béarn Pyrénées), Audrey Forlani (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Marjorie Mayans (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin/FFR), Audrey Abadie (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Carla Neisen (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Chloé Pelle (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois/FFR).

JAPAN: Mayu Shimizu (Nippon Sport Science Univ); Eriko Hirano (Yokohama TKM), Iroha Nagata (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Makiko Tomita (Setagaya Ladies), Honoka Tsutsumi (Nippon Sport Science Univ); Minori Yamamoto (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Moe Tsukui (The Second HS, Tokyo University of Agriculture); Makoto Ebuchi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ/Tokyo Phoenix RC), Seina Saito (Pearls) (capt), Saki Minami (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Aoi Mimura (Yokohama TKM), Ayano Sakurai (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Yuki Sue (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Ayaka Suzuki (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave (Arukas Queen Kumagaya).

Replacements: Misaki Suzuki (Tokyo Phoenix RC), Mizuho Kataoka (Yokohama TKM), Maiko Fujimoto (Yokohama TKM), Maki Takano (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Aya Nakajima (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Yumeno Noda (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Wasana Fukushima (Otemon Gakuin Univ), Riho Kurogi (Arukas Queen Kumagaya).

Referee: Graham Cooper (Australia)

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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.