Ireland Women’s head coach Adam Griggs has named the team for the opening game of the Women’s Six Nations against England at Energia Park on Friday evening (kick-off 5pm).
There are six personnel changes and two positional switches to the side that lost 37-15 to England at Twickenham in November. Injuries play their part with the likes of Lindsay Peat ruled out with a shoulder/neck injury and Nicole Cronin recovering from an Achilles injury.
Ballybofey native Laura Feely, who was a Championship newcomer last year, will make her first start at loosehead prop, joining Leah Lyons, who reverts to hooker, and Fiona Reidy in the front row. Locks Aoife McDermott and Nichola Fryday combine for their second successive Test start together.
There are Six Nations debuts for flanker Juliet Short, who won her first cap against the same opposition just over two months ago, out-half Nicole Fowley and IQ Rugby recruit Lauren Delany. Fowley’s strong kicking game sees her get the nod at number 10 after winning her first three caps at centre in 2016.
One of Leinster’s leading lights in their Interprovincial title-winning run, Short links up with Claire Molloy and captain Ciara Griffin in the back row, while Fowley will have Railway Union’s Ailsa Hughes alongside her at half-back. Megan Williams returns on the left wing and vice-captain Sene Naoupu marshals a back-line that is otherwise unchanged from the Twickenham game.
The presence of fit-again winger Alison Miller on the bench is a big boost, almost a year on from her horrific broken leg against Italy. The replacements also include three uncapped players – in-form Old Belvedere forward Linda Djougang, Connacht’s Anne-Marie O’Hora and young Ulster scrum half Kathryn Dane.
Speaking ahead of the first round clash, which will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2, Sky Sports Mix/Arena and RTÉ Radio 1 Extra, Griggs said:
There’s no bigger challenge than to open the Six Nations against England. They are second in the world for a reason and are a very good side who challenge you in every part of the game.
“We had a good Test against them in November and while we didn’t get the result, we showed some of the standards and improvements that are required to compete at this level which was a huge positive for us.
“We have had good preparations leading into this Friday’s opening match of the tournament, and we’re looking for a strong performance to get the Championship started in front of what we hope will be an amazing crowd in Donnybrook.”
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v England Women, 2019 Women’s Six Nations Championship, Energia Park, Donnybrook, Friday, February 1, kick-off 5pm):
15. Lauren Delany (Firwood Waterloo Ladies/IQ Rugby)
14. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster)
13. Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
12. Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/Leinster)
11. Megan Williams (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
10. Nicole Fowley (Galwegians/Connacht)
9. Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster)
1. Laura Feely (Galwegians/Connacht)
2. Leah Lyons (Harlequins)
3. Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster)
4. Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster)
5. Nichola Fryday (Galwegians/Connacht)
6. Juliet Short (Railway Union/Leinster)
7. Claire Molloy (Wasps)
8. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt)
16. Emma Hooban (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
17. Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
18. Anne-Marie O’Hora (Galwegians/Connacht) *
19. Anna Caplice (Richmond)
20. Claire McLaughlin (Old Belvedere/Ulster)
21. Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster) *
22. Ellen Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
23. Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
* Denotes uncapped player at this level
IRELAND WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS FIXTURES:
Friday, February 1:
IRELAND WOMEN v ENGLAND WOMEN, Energia Park, Donnybrook, 5pm (live RTÉ/Sky Sports) – Buy Tickets
Friday, February 8:
SCOTLAND WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow, 7.35pm (live RTÉ)
Saturday, February 23:
ITALY WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, 7.30pm local time/6.30pm Irish time (live RTÉ/Eurosport Italia)
Saturday, March 9:
IRELAND WOMEN v FRANCE WOMEN, Energia Park, Donnybrook, 7pm (live RTÉ/France Televisions) – Buy Tickets
Sunday, March 17:
WALES WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30pm (live RTÉ/S4C)