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Six Nations Preview: England Women v Ireland Women

Six Nations Preview: England Women v Ireland Women

Having beaten England for the first time last year, the Ireland Women will now look for a repeat result away from home as they take their Six Nations title defence to Twickenham for an eagerly-awaited televised clash.

2014 WOMEN’S RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, February 22

ENGLAND WOMEN (3rd) v IRELAND WOMEN (1st), Twickenham, 6.20pm (live RTÉ Two/www.rte.ie/live (worldwide)/’Game On’ RTÉ 2fm/BBC Red Button)

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Team News: Ireland Women’s head coach Philip Doyle has made two changes to the side that earned a hard-fought win over Wales in round 2 of the Women’s RBS 6 Nations.

Ashleigh Baxter comes in on the right wing for Hannah Casey and Gillian Bourke replaces Stacey-Lea Kennedy at hooker.

Both Casey and Kennedy will start from the bench. The only other change to the matchday 23 sees Laura Guest added to the replacements in place of Paula Fitzpatrick.

Niamh Briggs and Larissa Muldoon, who came into the side after the opening round win over Scotland, are retained at full-back and scrum half respectively.

Doyle commented: “The team showed great character to secure the win against Wales but they are in for a huge test this weekend facing England at Twickenham.

“England will be smarting from last year’s defeat and are a quality side who have shown their power and skill already in this Championship.”

Saturday’s showdown with England will be shown live on RTÉ Two/www.rte.ie/live (worldwide) following the men’s game at Twickenham – approximately 6.20pm.

The Ireland Women will play their first ever fixture at the Aviva Stadium when they face Italy in round 4 of the Six Nations on Saturday, March 8.

The game will kick off approximately 40 minutes after the Ireland men’s match against the Azzurri has concluded. Tickets for the Women’s fixture are available through Ticketmaster.ie.

Meanwhile, England Women’s boss Gary Street has made seven changes to the team that defeated Scotland two weeks ago for Saturday’s showdown with Ireland.

In a must-win match for England against the defending Grand Slam champions, Street has called up a new front row with Rochelle Clark, Emma Croker and Sophie Hemming all starting.

Also in the pack Maggie Alphonsi returns to the back row, combining with Hannah Gallagher and Sarah Hunter.

Worcester’s Katherine Merchant and Kay Wilson from Bristol line out on the wings in a new-look back-three, while Lichfield’s Natasha Hunt returns at scrum half.

* There is free entry into stadium after the men’s Six Nations match between England and Ireland.

Women’s RBS 6 Nations Results/Fixtures

Women’s RBS 6 Nations Table

ENGLAND WOMEN: Emily Scarratt (Lichfield); Katherine Merchant (Worcester), Amber Reed (Bristol), Rachael Burford (Thurrock), Kay Wilson (Bristol); Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (capt), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield); Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Emma Croker (Richmond), Sophie Hemming (Bristol), Rebecca Essex (Richmond), Joanne McGilchrist (Wasps), Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), Maggie Alphonsi (Saracens), Sarah Hunter (Lichfield).

Replacements: Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), Laura Keates (Worcester), Sasha Acheson (Bristol), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Marlie Packer (Wasps), La Toya Mason (Wasps), Ceri Large (Worcester), Lydia Thompson (Worcester).

IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/UCC/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Bristol/Exile); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster).

Replacements: Stacey-Lea Kennedy (Cooke/Ulster), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), Kerrie-Ann Craddock (Saracens/Exile), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Amy Davis (Blackrock /Ulster), Hannah Casey (Saracens/Exile), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Exile).

Referee: Sherry Trumbull (Canada)
Assistant Referees: Claire Hodnett, Tracey Pettingale (both England)
Television Match Official: Graham Hughes (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): England Women to win: 2/9; Draw: 20/1; Ireland Women to win: 3/1

Pre-Match Quotes – Lynne Cantwell (Ireland Women): “Everybody’s fit and ready to go. We had a one-day session last Saturday, it was a really, really good session and I think it was enough to address a few of the things that we need to change (from the last game).

“It’s really important that we put it behind us and look forward to this Saturday, so everybody is really excited this week instead of being nervous…because the build-up to a game is something you should enjoy as well.

“What we’ve got on our side is that we’ve got practically the same squad as last year. We think that we’re taking it on another notch and we have other challenges that we’ve set ourselves.

“We’re trying to implement a different type of game-plan, so that’s been our focus as opposed to the Grand Slam, the bigger picture.

“Last year (when we beat England 25-0 in Ashbourne) they still had the same pack as normal, and they do this year so nothing’s going to change from a pack point of view.

“They definitely have a few more threats in the back-line but it’s nothing we don’t know, we haven’t played against for years and I don’t think we’re not able for.”

Gary Street (England Women): “It has been a tough selection this week but I think the quality of our bench shows the depth we have in this squad. We’ve had good week training and the players are feeling really positive and excited about playing against Ireland at Twickenham.

“With our defeat last season to Ireland, playing at Twickenham and knowing we must win, this is a big match. That said, at the same time, for us every game is a big game all the way through to the Rugby World Cup in August now as this is our target.

“Ireland have a strong all-round game with some powerful forwards and pace in their backs whilst we’ve learned a lot from our defeat to France and we are feeling ready for this. I think this will be a great expansive game of rugby for the Twickenham crowd to enjoy.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: Ireland 14 Wales 6 First Half

Irish Rugby TV: Ireland 14 Wales 6 Second Half

Ireland Women Open With Record-Breaking Rout

Two Wins Out Of Two For Ireland Women

Photo Gallery: Ireland Women 14 Wales Women 6

Tickets And Timings Confirmed For Historic Women’s Fixture

Match Facts –

– The England Women’s team have won three of their last four matches. Their only home defeat in their last 11 fixtures came against France at Twickenham in round 3 last season, which was their only previous loss in eleven matches at English rugby’s headquarters

– Defending champions Ireland have won ten of their last 11 Six Nations matches: their only reversal during that run being a 23-6 loss to England at Esher in 2012

– England won their first 17 encounters with Ireland until their 25-0 defeat at Ashbourne in last year’s Championship –

– The Ireland Women’s side have played at Twickenham just once before, losing 51-10 in 2004

– Current players Fiona Coghlan, the team captain, and Lynne Cantwell are the only survivors from that day, while the recently retired Joy Neville scored one of Ireland’s two tries and provided the assist for the other

– Irish lock Sophie Spence remains top of the try scoring charts thanks to her hat-trick of tries in the record-breaking 59-0 defeat of Scotland in round 1. England captain Katy Mclean is the top points scorer with 19 points

Recent Meetings –

2011: Women’s Six Nations: Ireland Women 0 England Women 31, Ashbourne RFC

2012: Women’s Six Nations: England Women 23 Ireland Women 6, Esher RFC

2013: Women’s Six Nations: Ireland Women 25 England Women 0, Ashbourne RFC