Out-half Nora Stapleton will make her 50th appearance for Ireland when they take on Wales in their Women’s Rugby World Cup 7th-8th place play-off clash at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).
Nora Stapleton, who made her debut against Italy in the 2010 Six Nations, is the third member of Ireland’s WRWC 2017 squad to reach the half-century milestone, after captain Claire Molloy and Marie Louise Reilly.
The Donegal woman – the scorer of 15 points in the tournament – will be partnered by Nicole Cronin for the third game in a row, with head coach Tom Tierney making four personnel changes and two positional switches to the side that lost 36-24 to Australia.
Following reviews after Tuesday’s game, it has been confirmed that both Molloy and Jenny Murphy, who were taken off for head injury assessments and did not return, will miss the Wales match. The pair are following the return-to-play protocols and are not available for selection.
With Murphy sidelined and Sene Naoupu set for bench duty, there is a new centre partnership as Blackrock duo Katie Fitzhenry and Jeamie Deacon (pictured below) team up in midfield. It will be a proud day for the two Wexford natives, with Deacon making her first international start on Irish soil.
Hannah Tyrrell and Alison Miller, who have been ever-present at this World Cup, are joined in the back-three by Eimear Considine, while the fourth and final change sees Heather O’Brien return at number 8 behind an unchanged tight five. Fellow Munster player Ciara Griffin moves to openside flanker, with Paula Fitzpatrick, who will captain the team, reverting to the blindside.
Previewing Saturday’s showdown with one of their Six Nations rivals, Tierney said: “It’s no secret that we didn’t want to be in this position, but it is where we have found ourselves on the final weekend, and while we’re disappointed that we’re not competing for higher honours, we want to sign off the competition with a win.
“It really is a cup final tomorrow, with the winners gaining automatic qualification for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup. Wales have shown they have a strong set piece, and we’ve had challenging games with them over the last few seasons in the Six Nations.
“It’s been a tough few weeks, but I know that the players really want to put in a performance tomorrow and as they have said – leave the green jersey in a better place.”
The 7th-8th place play-off between Ireland and Wales will be broadcast live on eir Sport 1 and RTE Two, while RTE Radio 1 will have live commentary on radio. There will also be live streaming on www.rwcwomens.com – available in certain regions.
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v Wales, 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup – 7th-8th Place Play-Off, Kingspan Stadium, Saturday, August 26, kick-off 2pm):
15. Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
14. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster)
13. Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
12. Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock/Leinster)
11. Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
10. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
9. Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster)
2. Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster)
3. Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
4. Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster)
5. Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
6. Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster) (capt)
7. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
8. Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster)
16. Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster)
17. Ilse van Staden (Cooke/Ulster)
18. Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht)
19. Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
20. Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
21. Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Ulster)
22. Sene Naoupu (Harlequins)
23. Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht)
IRELAND WOMEN’S WORLD CUP – MATCH SCHEDULE:
Wednesday, August 9
Ireland 19 Australia 17, UCD Bowl
Sunday, August 13
Ireland 24 Japan 14, UCD Bowl
Thursday, August 17
France 21 Ireland 5, UCD Bowl
Tuesday, August 22
Ireland 24 Australia 36, Kingspan Stadium
Saturday, August 26
Ireland v Wales, Kingspan Stadium, 2pm
For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets now for the #WRWC2017 finals day at Kingspan – Ireland v Wales, France v USA and the final between England and New Zealand – on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.