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Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship: Round 2 Previews

Munster's Maeve Óg O'Leary holds the Women's Interprovincial Championship trophy, alongside Leinster's Dannah O'Brien, Méabh Deely of Connacht and Ulster's Mya Alcorn ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster's Maeve Óg O'Leary holds the Women's Interprovincial Championship trophy, alongside Leinster's Dannah O'Brien, Méabh Deely of Connacht and Ulster's Mya Alcorn ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Last week’s winning teams, Munster and Leinster, come face to face at Musgrave Park on Saturday, while Ulster and Connacht clash at Kingspan Stadium with both sides in search of an elusive win.


Saturday, January 14 –

MUNSTER (1st) v LEINSTER (2nd), Musgrave Park, 12.15pm (live TG4) Buy Tickets Here

Vodafone Women’s Interpros Form: Munster: W; Leinster: W
Vodafone Women’s Interpros Top Scorers – Munster: Points: Deirbhile Nic a Bháird, Claire Bennett 10 each; Tries: Deirbhile Nic a Bháird, Claire Bennett 2 each; Leinster: Points: Jenny Murphy 10; Tries: Jenny Murphy 2

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Preview: A minor knock will keep Ireland star Enya Breen out of Munster’s crunch clash with Leinster in Saturday‘s second round of the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship.

Rachel Allen replaces her former UL Bohemians club-mate at inside centre, with Clare native Alana McInerney coming onto the left wing as the second and final change to the team that beat Ulster 34-0.

Reigning champions Munster and Leinster, the 2018 and 2019 winners, are level on five points at the top of the table. With just one more round after this, there is a huge amount riding on tomorrow afternoon’s result in Cork.

For their second successive outing at Musgrave Park, Niamh Briggs’ charges know they will need to lift their performance level higher given Leinster are out of revenge after losing last season’s title decider 19-7 in Donnybrook.

“It was a serious game last year,” admitted Munster assistant coach Matt Brown. “Leinster put in a serious performance against Connacht (winning 38-10 last week), they just pose a different threat altogether and I suppose it’s up to use to try and nullify that.

“But also we can’t take our eye off our own game and hopefully we can still deliver. We’ll see where we are after 80 minutes, I suppose.

“Defensively, we did keep Ulster scoreless but certainly there’s a lot of areas we’ve identified where we need to be better. Perhaps on a different day we could have been exploited.

“Probably a little bit disappointed that we didn’t kick on in the second half. Obviously this Saturday we’ve just got to be better again.”

Leinster head coach Tania Rosser has made three personnel changes, promoting Aoife Moore, Elise O’Byrne-White and Molly Scuffil-McCabe, who had an impressive second half cameo at scrum half last Saturday, from the bench.

Old Belvedere forward Niamh O’Dowd also switches from the front row to blindside flanker, taking over from the injured Ali Coleman. The replacements are bolstered by Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony and Railway Union duo Emma Murphy and Niamh Byrne.

Almost 10 years ago, Jenny Murphy won a Grand Slam with Ireland while partnering 30-somethings Grace Davitt and Lynne Cantwell in midfield. Now the shoe is on the other foot and she is in a mentoring role with Offaly teenager Aoife Dalton.

Dalton was Leinster’s player-of-the-match on her debut against Connacht last week, and her centre partner Murphy feels the talented Offaly teenager is a potential star in the making.

“Aoife’s an absolute dream to play with. Just constantly wants to learn, constantly willing to work, really tenacious around the park and has just got a really positive attitude,” said the former Ireland international.

“I can really see her do some special things both in blue and in green, I think she’s one of the future stars that are going to grace Ireland for a few years to come.

“There’s plenty to learn but I think we’ve kind of paired together well and there’s still as well, as club-mates together at Old Belvedere, things that we can tidy up and work on.

“I’m looking forward to getting our timings a little bit more right and reading each other a little bit better. Defensively, I thought she was super solid and she’s only going to get better.”

Murphy, the scorer of two tries against Connacht, added: “Going away to Munster is always tough. It’s one of my favourite games in the rugby calendar to play. There’s that bit of extra bite, a bit of venom.

“We’re playing against club-mates as well, who we know how dangerous they can be. You’re going into the lion’s den essentially, and these are the games you want to be playing in.”

MUNSTER: Aoife Corey (UL Bohemian RFC); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC), Stephanie Nunan (UL Bohemian RFC), Rachel Allen (UL Bohemian RFC), Alana McInerney (UL Bohemian RFC); Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC) (capt), Muirne Wall (UL Bohemian RFC); Róisín Ormond (Ballincollig RFC), Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemian RFC), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemian RFC), Clodagh O’Halloran (UL Bohemian RFC), Claire Bennett (UL Bohemian RFC), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC), Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College RFC), Deirbhile Nic a Bháird (Old Belvedere RFC).

Replacements: Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemian RFC), Gillian Coombes (Ballincollig RFC), Eilís Cahill (UL Bohemian RFC), Sarah Garrett (UL Bohemian RFC), Ciara Farrell (UL Bohemian RFC), Kate Flannery (UL Bohemian RFC), Stephanie Carroll (Railway Union RFC), Laura Sheehan (Exeter Chiefs).

LEINSTER: Ella Roberts (Wicklow RFC); Elise O’Byrne-White (Dublin University FC/Old Belvedere RFC), Aoife Dalton (Tullamore RFC/Old Belvedere RFC), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere RFC), Anna Doyle (Tullow RFC/Blackrock College RFC); Dannah O’Brien (Tullow RFC/Old Belvedere RFC), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Garda Westmanstown RFC/Railway Union RFC) ; Aoife Moore (Blackrock College RFC), Jess Keating (Old Belvedere RFC), Christy Haney (St. Mary’s College RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (co-capt), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union RFC), Eimear Corri (Portlaoise RFC/Blackrock College RFC), Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC), Molly Boyne (Dublin University FC/Railway Union RFC), Hannah O’Connor (CYM RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (co-capt).

Replacements: Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony (Old Belvedere RFC), Lisa Callan (Railway Union RFC), Megan Collis (Greystones RFC/Railway Union RFC), Elaine Anthony (Old Belvedere RFC), Emma Murphy (Railway Union RFC), Lisa Mullen (Virginia RFC/Blackrock College RFC), Ailsa Hughes (Tullamore RFC/Railway Union RFC), Niamh Byrne (Railway Union RFC).

Referee: Andrew Fogarty (IRFU)

Recent Championship Meetings – Saturday, August 31, 2019: Munster 13 Leinster 20, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, September 11, 2021: Leinster 7 Munster 19, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Munster to win

ULSTER (4th) v CONNACHT (3rd), Kingspan Stadium, 2.30pm (live TG4/BBC iPlayer) – Buy Tickets Here

Vodafone Women’s Interpros Form: Ulster: L; Connacht: L
Vodafone Women’s Interpros Top Scorers – Ulster: Points: -; Tries: -; Connacht: Points: Orla Dixon, Nicole Fowley 5 each; Tries: Orla Dixon 1

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Preview: Captain Beth Cregan switches to openside flanker for the first of back-to-back home games for Ulster. They return to Kingspan Stadium to host Connacht, with Enniskillen pair India Daley and Sophie Barrett joining Cregan in the back row.

Cooke’s Megan Simpson slots in at hooker as the third and final personnel change made by head coach Neill Alcorn. He says they have trained well this week and has highlighted the need ‘to be stronger, more efficient and able to finish off our chances in a clinical way’.

They will look to get the best out of an unchanged back-line that features Energia All-Ireland League winners Maeve Liston and Ella Durkan, while there is plenty of excitement about the potential of 18-year-olds Barrett and Sadhbh McGrath, Daley (21) and Mya Alcorn (20).

“Connacht are a very physical team, and we saw in the Leinster game how they target the breakdown, and they have several international players,” noted Cregan.

“In the friendlies we played, we put them under real pressure and have really shown our attacking flair when we get the details right. We’re really looking forward to it, really excited about the game, and hopefully (we can) show the type of performance we know we have within us.

“Being back at Kingspan Stadium in front of the Ulster fans means a lot to everyone in the squad. It’s always special to have that opportunity to play on that stage and great to see it hosting the TikTok Six Nations last year, and the Celtic Challenge next month.”

Meanwhile, another promising teenager, Geesala’s Clara Barrett, is brought in for her first senior interprovincial start as Connacht head coach Lyndon Jones makes two changes to the side that lost by six tries-to-one at Energia Park.

Barrett takes over from Laoise McGonagle on the left wing, with her UL Bohemians club-mate Lily Brady also handed a start at hooker. Emily Gavin, Karly Tierney and the IRFU-contracted Kayla Waldron are added to the bench.

Experienced full-back Mairéad Coyne commented: “Ulster are a very strong team, they’re a physical team, they’re similar to us. They lost to Munster so they’re going to come out hard at the weekend. We’re expecting a very physical game.

“It’s great to see the young girls coming in. They’ve played Under-18s for Connacht and I never played at that level. It’s great to see that building in towards the clubs and into the province as well, so it’s really good.”

ULSTER: Maeve Liston (Blackrock College RFC); Fern Wilson (Queen’s University Belfast RFC), Kelly McCormill (Cooke RFC), Mya Alcorn (Blackrock College RFC), Niamh Marley (Dungannon RFC); Ella Durkan (Blackrock College RFC), Rachael McIlroy (Queen’s University Belfast RFC); Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke RFC), Megan Simpson (Cooke RFC), Ilse van Staden (Cooke RFC), Keelin Brady (Railway Union RFC), Brenda Barr (Suttonians RFC), India Daley (Enniskillen RFC), Beth Cregan (City of Derry RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (capt), Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen RFC).

Replacements: Gemma McCamley (Cooke RFC), Ava Fannin (Blackrock College RFC), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere RFC), Helen McGhee (Cooke RFC), Stacey Sloan (Cooke RFC), Amber Redmond (Suttonians RFC), Amanda Morton (Cooke RFC), Emma Jordan (Malone RFC/Suttonians RFC).

CONNACHT: Mairéad Coyne (Galwegians RFC); Ava Ryder (Railway Union RFC), Orla Dixon (Galwegians RFC), Shannon Touhey (Suttonians RFC), Clara Barrett (UL Bohemian RFC); Nicole Fowley (Galwegians RFC), Mary Healy (Galwegians RFC) (capt); Grainne O’Loughlin (Railway Union RFC), Lily Brady (UL Bohemian RFC), Laura Feely (Blackrock College RFC), Fiona Scally (Galwegians RFC), Eva McCormack (UL Bohemian RFC), Lisa-Marie Murphy (Galwegians RFC), Emma Fabby (Railway Union RFC), Grace Browne Moran (Galwegians RFC).

Replacements: Emily Gavin (Galwegians RFC), Niamh O’Grady (Galwegians RFC), Elizabeth McNicholas (Galwegians RFC), Sonia McDermott (Railway Union RFC), Karly Tierney (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Olivia Haverty (Galwegians RFC), Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Kayla Waldron (Galwegians RFC).

Referee: Robbie Jenkinson (IRFU)

Recent Championship Meetings – Saturday, August 31, 2019: Ulster 19 Connacht 20, Queen’s Sport Upper Malone; Saturday, September 11, 2021: Connacht 12 Ulster 12, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Connacht to win

Round 1 Highlights –

Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship: Round 1 Highlights