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Opportunity Knocks For Emerging Talent In U-18 Girls Development Interpros

Opportunity Knocks For Emerging Talent In U-18 Girls Development Interpros

Munster's Amelia Green contests a lineout with Connacht flanker Beibhinn Gleeson ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Two entertaining Under-18 Girls Development Interprovincial matches took place at the IRFU High Performance Centre on Sunday afternoon.

The midterm break provides the ideal window for the provincial teams to get a couple of run-outs before the Ireland Under-18 squad (sponsored by PwC) is selected for the U-18 Six Nations Festival, which takes place on April 7-15 at Wellington College in Berkshire, England.

So, the Interprovincial Development Series offers a last chance for players to impress the national coaches, led by Katie Fitzhenry, IRFU Women’s National WNTS and Talent Identification Manager.

There was plenty of travelling support for all the provinces on the day, with each of the touchlines full of spectators for both games.

Leinster v Ulster Gallery

Munster v Connacht Gallery

On one side Leinster, who retained the U-18 Interprovincial title last September, played Ulster and on the other Munster were up against Connacht, both kicking off simultaneously.

The Munster-Connacht encounter was full of bright attacking play, the final try tally standing at nine. It was an open game of rugby that had a bit of everything.

Coached by Craig Hansberry, Connacht ran out 39-19 bonus point winners. The silky skills of their back-line was the highlight, the speed of ball mixed with their ability to run slick lines off shoulders making them very hard to stop.

The westerners had an electric back-three that had an eye for racing into the space. Full-back Hannah Clarke (2) and winger Emily Foley scored three tries between them, putting their jet-heeled boots to good use.

When the Connacht back-line got going, they were clinical and racked up the tries. Centres Molly Boote, Sarah Purcell and out-half Siofra Hession notched their other three scores.

For Munster, their number 8 Beth Buttimer typified the never-say-die attitude that we so often associate with the province. The back rower got a try of her own, while Niamh McCarthy and Grainne Burke also got over from close range.

The set-piece was another notable positive for Ken Imbusch’s side. Emma Dunican continually connected with the reliable Saskia Wycherley in the lineout. Captain Wycherley, sister of Fineen and Josh, seems like a real leader in their pack.

The other game saw Leinster carve out a 22-7 bonus point victory over Ulster in what was another hotly-contested match. Niamh Murphy, Deirbhile Gavaghan, Ellen Dunne and Katie Corrigan crossed the whitewash for the Blues.

Cooke centre Tara O’Neill captained Ulster and scored their only try of the game, which was converted by Leah Irwin.

It was a great day’s rugby at the Sport Ireland Campus facility, highlighting all the young talented players that are coming through the club and provincial pathways across the island.

IRFU Women’s Development Manager Amanda Greensmith believes it is an important step for all the young players to get the chance to play at the HPC, a venue which is regularly used by the national 15s and Sevens teams. She said:

It’s brilliant for the girls to be able to come in and experience the High Performance Centre, before they potentially make it into a national set-up, it’s great for them to be able to use this facility that the professional side of the house use.”

Next Thursday there will be another double header at Terenure College, with Connacht facing Ulster and the other fixture seeing Leinster and Munster go head-to-head.

The two rounds of fixtures are very much an attempt to ramp up preparations for the upcoming U-18 Six Nations campaign. Greensmith said it was a real opportunity for girls to put their best foot forward with squad selection on the horizon.

“The girls had the Interpros at the start of the season and then they went back and they’ve been playing in their clubs,” she explained.

It’s been really important to have this window as it helps the guys in High Performance and for the coaches who will be coaching the U-18 national team to get another look at players for their upcoming games.

“People can evolve and change and develop different aspects of their game in seasons, so again it is that opportunity to give them a second bite of the cherry, for want of a better term, to put their hand up for selection.”

The continued development of the Women’s game, at both grassroots and senior level, is one of the key goals for Irish Rugby. Greensmith is hopeful that these Development Interpros could be run again in the future.

“We’re always keen to work with High Performance and we will sit down in the next couple of weeks and start looking at what’s to come for next season – try to facilitate windows like this for the girls to come in and get this opportunity.

“But, also we have to be mindful of what’s going on in the clubland and ensuring that we work with the clubs and it’s as least disruptive as possible. It’s all about giving girls that opportunity and second chance,” she added.



MUNSTER 19 CONNACHT 39, IRFU High Performance Centre
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Niamh McCarthy, Beth Buttimer, Grainne Burke; Cons: Caitriona Finn 2
Connacht: Tries: Hannah Clarke 2, Emily Foley, Molly Boote, Sarah Purcell, Siofra Hession; Cons: Keanah Irons 3; Pen: Siofra Hession

MUNSTER: Orna Moynihan; Katie Hehir, Lyndsay Clarke, Grainne Burke, Siobhan O’Callaghan; Caitriona Finn, Rebecca Rogers;  Tuathla Ryan, Emma Dunican, Niamh McCarthy, Amelia Green, Aoibheann McGrath, Saskia Wycherley (capt), Clodagh O’Keeffe, Beth Buttimer.

Replacements: Ava O’Malley, Sofia Carty, Lily Morris, Sadie Murphy, Ella Buckley, Grace Dillon, Meghan Crilly, Fia Whelan.

CONNACHT: Hannah Clarke; Keanah Irons, Molly Boote, Sarah Purcell, Emily Foley; Siofra Hession, Grainne Moran;  Ella Burns, Ellen O’Toole, Roisin Maher, Grainne Hahessy, Sarah McCormick (capt), Ailish Quinn, Beibhinn Gleeson, Jemima Adams Verling.

Replacements: Ella Greene, Ellie Filan, Nadine Fitzmaurice, Rhona O’Dea, Poppy Garvey, Merisa Kiripati, Megan Connolly, Ailbhe Gannon.

LEINSTER 22 ULSTER 7, IRFU High Performance Centre
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Niamh Murphy, Deirbhile Gavaghan, Ellen Dunne, Katie Corrigan; Con: Abby Healy
Ulster: Try: Tara O’Neill; Con: Leah Irwin

LEINSTER: Julie Nolan; Niamh Murphy, Heidi Lyons, Sadhbh Kinsella Furlong, Clara Dunne; Amy Rushton, Hannah Scanlan; Lily Byrne, Emma Counihan, Melissa Quirke, Ellen Dunne, Rebecca Brennan, Hannah Kennedy, Deirbhile Gavaghan, Ciara Short.

Replacements: Kelly Burke, Emma-Jane Wilson, Hope Lowney, Orla Wafer, Georgia Young, Abby Healy, Caoimhe McCormack, Katie Corrigan.

ULSTER: Elle Corkey; Katie Gilmour, Scarlett Keys, Tara O’Neill (capt), Mia Ferguson; Leah Irwin, Megan Creighton; Isabelle McNally Grant, Seonaidh Douthart, Sophie McAllister, Lucy Calvin, Ruby Starrett, Jessica Wilkinson, Keeva Corry, Cara McLean.

Replacements: Clara Mackle, Sabine Bartley, Olivia Black, Alexandra Boyd, Katie McAllister, Beth McBurney, Orlaith Breen, Nicole Hetherington.