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Kathy Baker Steps Up For Her World Series Debut In Kitakyushu

Kathy Baker Steps Up For Her World Series Debut In Kitakyushu

Ireland Sevens coach Stan McDowell has confirmed the 12 players to compete at the Kitakyushu 7s this weekend. The pool games get underway in the next few hours at the Mikuni World Stadium, with the knockout stages taking place on Sunday.

Captain Lucy Mulhall will lead an exciting Ireland Women’s squad, which includes a host of experienced players in the likes of Louise Galvin, Hannah Tyrrell, Stacey Flood at scrum-half, forwards Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry and Audrey O’Flynn, and Tipperary speedster Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe who has scored 39 tries in 14 World Series tournaments

The Ireland Sevens Development Programme continues to produce more talent, as 19-year-old Kathy Baker is set to win her first senior Sevens cap tomorrow. Her team-mates, Eve Higgins (18) and Katie Heffernan (19), are two more graduates of the underage system, and they are set to make their third and fourth respective World Series appearances this weekend.

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Munster winger Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird is set for her third consecutive World Series event. She scored tries in both Dubai and Sydney so will be looking to add to her account at the Mikuni World Stadium over the next two days.

Ireland are drawn in Pool A alongside Australia, China and Spain. First up for the girls in green are European rivals Spain tomorrow at 11:14am local time/3:14am Irish time. The teams last met in Dubai in November when Spain recorded a 17-7 win in their final pool game and sent Ireland into the Challenge Trophy competition. Spain had seventh and sixth-place finishes in Dubai and Sydney respectively.

Ireland have played Spain nine times so far on the World Series, with Ireland triumphing on five occasions and Spain winning three games, with one draw. It will be an interesting opening contest, and  a win would set either up positively for the remainder of day 1.

Ireland face the Australians next at 2.20pm local time/6.20am Irish time. The Olympic champions arrived in Japan two days after finishing as runners-up at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Australia pushed New Zealand in last Sunday’s epic final, with the Black Ferns claiming the winning score after six-and-a-half additional minutes.

While the Aussies are without some of their better-known players (Charlotte Caslick, Ellia Green and co-captain Sharni Williams), they have talent across the board and the majority of the squad in Kitakyushu were involved in last weekend’s matches.

Ireland’s final outing on day 1 is against invitational outfit China at 4.42pm local time/8.42am Irish time. China were the winners of the World Series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong two weeks ago, which means that they will be one of the 11 core teams on next season’s World Series circuit.

Ireland and China have only met twice before and that was back in 2014 when it was one win a piece, with the girls in green winning the more recent fixture, 17-7, in Guangzhou. China will take confidence from their title success in Hong Kong and will no doubt be looking to show what they can bring to next season’s series, so Mulhall and her team-mates will need to be on their guard if they are to complete the pool stages on a positive note.

For things to go well for Ireland tomorrow, they must play to their strengths. Their lineout has been a very good platform, as has their work at the restart where they have made a very good habit of challenging for and winning possession.

The Kitakyushu 7s takes place at the Mikuni World Stadium and kicks off in the next few hours, with the knockout stages on Sunday. The games will be streamed live on www.worldrugby.org and the World Rugby Sevens Facebook page.

The Ireland Sevens jerseys are available to buy online here from Elverys Intersport, official sports retailer of the IRFU.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Kitakyushu 7s, Mikuni World Stadium, Kitakyushu, Japan, Saturday, April 21-Sunday, April 22):

Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Kathy Baker (Blackrock/Leinster) *
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union/Leinster)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Audrey O’Flynn (Ireland Sevens)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

* Denotes uncapped player at this level

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS FIXTURES – KITAKYUSHU 7s:

Saturday, April 21 –

Pool A:

Spain v Ireland, Mikuni World Stadium, 11.14am local time/3.14am Irish time
Australia v Ireland, Mikuni World Stadium, 2.20pm local time/6.20am Irish time
Ireland v China, Mikuni World Stadium, 4.42pm local time/8.42am Irish time

Sunday, April 22 –

Play-Offs

Follow the Ireland Women’s and Men’s Sevens teams this season in our exclusive behind the scenes series – On The Road with the Ireland 7s.

For more information on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, visit www.worldrugby.org/sevens-series.