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Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship: Round 3 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

Munster travel to the Sportsground as red-hot favourites to lift the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial trophy, needing just a point to seal the title.

They are priming themselves for a tough battle though, as Connacht’s bonus point win in Belfast last week has buoyed them up ahead of the final round showdown.

Meanwhile, Tania Rosser’s Leinster team travel north hoping the westerners can do them a favour. Their round 3 hosts, Ulster, are targeting an 80-minute performance after a game of two halves against Connacht.


Saturday, January 21 –

CONNACHT (3rd) v MUNSTER (1st), the Sportsground, 1pm (live TG4) Buy Tickets Here

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Vodafone Women’s Interpros Form: Connacht: LW; Munster: WW
Vodafone Women’s Interpros Top Scorers – Connacht: Points: Nicole Fowley, Clara Barrett 10 each; Tries: Clara Barrett 2; Munster: Points: Deirbhile Nic a Bháird 15; Tries: Deirbhile Nic a Bháird 3

Preview: With the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial title on the line, talented Tipperary teenager Kate Flannery steps up for her first start for Munster as they head to Galway with a five-point lead at the top of the table.

The 18-year-old Flannery, younger sister of Ulster and Emerging Ireland out-half Jake, slots in at inside centre in the continuing absence of Ireland star Enya Breen who has been nursing a minor knock.

That is the only change made by Munster head coach Niamh Briggs, who is on the brink of guiding her province to a clean sweep of victories and back-to-back Interpro crowns for the first time since 2015 when she was captain.

Flannery partners her UL Bohemians club-mate Stephanie Nunan in midfield, while the Championship leaders’ ever-present back row of Dorothy Wall, Maeve Óg O’Leary and Deirbhile Nic a Bháird has produced three tries and two Vodafone player-of-the-match awards so far.

“It’s a really important game and we’re under no illusions as to how strong Connacht will be,” admitted experienced prop Fiona Reidy, who first played for Munster back in 2008.

“Connacht are a very tough side, they held Leinster at 0-0 for 30 minutes. They’re a physical team and they’ll certainly put it up to us.

“We’ve had really good intense sessions, and ‘Briggsy’ and the guys have just been great in terms of upping the intensity and really putting us through our paces. Making sure we’ve prepared as best we can be.

“It’s always great to beat Leinster, especially down on home turf in Musgrave Park (last week). It was extra special there in front of our own friends and family and supporters.”

Meanwhile, Ireland Under-18 international Karly Tierney and the IRFU-contracted Kayla Waldron are added to the Connacht back row as their only two changes to the team that beat Ulster 25-19.

Centre Orla Dixon, a try scorer up in Belfast, said: “The win over Ulster last week gave us massive confidence. In the first half, in particular, we really showed the type of rugby that we can play.

“It was super to get the bonus point leading into the last game of the tournament. Now to get to play Munster, the defending champions, in front of our own fans, we’re hoping for a big finish to the Interpros.”

Young lock/back rower Mollie Starr completes the the westerners’ matchday 23, with the Portumna product hoping to make her senior debut for the province at the age of 19.

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), Karly Tierney (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Kayla Waldron (Galwegians RFC), Grace Browne Moran (Galwegians RFC).

Replacements: Emily Gavin (Galwegians RFC), Niamh O’Grady (Galwegians RFC), Hannah Coen (Galwegians RFC), Sonia McDermott (Railway Union RFC), Orla Fenton (Galwegians RFC), Olivia Haverty (Galwegians RFC), Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Mollie Starr (Galway Corinthians RFC).

MUNSTER: Aoife Corey (UL Bohemian RFC); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC), Stephanie Nunan (UL Bohemian RFC), Kate Flannery (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), Rachel Allen (UL Bohemian RFC), Stephanie Carroll (Railway Union RFC), Heather Kennedy (Ballincollig RFC).

Referee: Paul O’Connor (IRFU)

Recent Championship Meetings – Saturday, September 14, 2019: Semi-Final: Munster 17 Connacht 20, Templeville Road; Saturday, September 4, 2021: Munster 31 Connacht 7, Musgrave Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Munster to win

ULSTER (4th) v LEINSTER (2nd), Queen’s University Upper Malone, 5.30pm (live BBC NI/TG4 Player) Buy Tickets Here

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Vodafone Women’s Interpros Form: Ulster: LL; Leinster: WL
Vodafone Women’s Interpros Top Scorers – Ulster: Points: Beth Cregan 10; Tries: Beth Cregan 2; Leinster: Points: Jenny Murphy 15; Tries: Jenny Murphy 3

Preview: The title race could be decided by the time Ulster and Leinster kick out at the Queen’s University facility. No matter the earlier result, Rosser’s charges will proceed with full steam ahead as they seek a quick return to winning ways.

Emma Hooban, an Energia All-Ireland League winner with Blackrock College, and Old Belvedere lock Elaine Anthony come into the tight five as the only alterations to the side that lost 26-17 to arch rivals Munster in Cork.

The versatile Molly Scuffil-McCabe continues at scrum half, with 19-year-old recent new cap Katie Whelan providing back-up from the bench.

Second row Aoife McDermott, who will be going up against her Railway Union club-mate Keelin Brady, said: “Very disappointed after last weekend. We feel we didn’t perform and execute the game-plan, but the joy of the Interpros is we have another game this week.

“We’ve had areas to work on, particularly around our lineout and our set piece, and our breakdown area and our penalty count. Loads of easy fixes, things we’ll definitely target and try and improve on.

“The travelling support just give you that extra boost when you’re out on the pitch. We’d love to see as many as we can at Queen’s on Saturday. Definitely looking to finish on a high and put in a good performance in the Leinster jersey.”

Meanwhile, Ulster head coach Neill Alcorn has rejigged his back-line for the final round encounter with 2018 and 2019 champions Leinster.

Emma Jordan, who featured for Suttonians during this season’s shortened AIL campaign, is brought in at outside centre with Kelly McCormill switching to the number 12 role.

Enniskillen and Cooke’s Lucy Thompson gets the nod on the right wing, the all-Cooke front row of Sadhbh McGrath, Megan Simpson and Ilse van Staden is retained, and captain Beth Cregan combines again in the loose forwards with Enniskillen duo India Daley and Sophie Barrett.

“We have shown that when we get things to click, we are a very threatening team, and there are definitely positives to be taken away from that performance (against Connacht),” insisted Cregan.

“No matter how performances go though, we move on to the next game, and from watching Leinster it’s clear they want to play an expansive brand of rugby.

“We expect them to run it from everywhere, kick deep, look for offloads, and play with a bit of flair – but we want to nullify that, and show our own style.

“We’re really looking forward to this game and hoping we can put down a marker and start games the same way we’ve been finishing them. We want to really push on and get that whole 80-minute performance.”

ULSTER: Maeve Liston (Blackrock College RFC); Lucy Thompson (Enniskillen RFC/Cooke RFC), Emma Jordan (Malone RFC/Suttonians RFC), Kelly McCormill (Cooke 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: Aishling O’Connell (Cooke RFC), Gemma McCamley (Cooke RFC), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere RFC), Helen McGhee (Cooke RFC), Stacey Sloan (Cooke RFC), Hannah Beattie (Malone RFC), Hannah Downey (Cooke RFC), Fern Wilson (Queen’s University Belfast RFC).

LEINSTER: Ella Roberts (Wicklow RFC); Elise O’Byrne-White (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), Emma Hooban (Blackrock College RFC), Christy Haney (St. Mary’s College RFC/Blackrock RFC (co-capt), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union RFC), Elaine Anthony (Old Belvedere 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), Eimear Corri (Portlaoise RFC/Blackrock College RFC), Emma Murphy (Railway Union RFC), Lisa Mullen (Virginia RFC/Blackrock College RFC), Katie Whelan (Old Belvedere RFC), Niamh Byrne (Railway Union RFC).

Referee: Shane Kierans (IRFU)

Recent Championship Meetings – Saturday, September 14, 2019: Semi-Final: Leinster 59 Ulster 3, Saturday, September 4, 2021: Leinster 57 Ulster 12, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Leinster to win