The Ireland Women’s squad got a further jolt of motivation when Olympic boxing star Katie Taylor presented the players with their match jerseys last night, as they build towards their second Six Nations game against Wales.
2014 WOMEN’S RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, February 7
Team News: Ireland Women’s head coach Philip Doyle has made two changes to the side that defeated Scotland at Ashbourne last Friday night for the forthcoming clash against Wales.
The fit-again Niamh Briggs is named at full-back and Larissa Muldoon comes in at scrum half. The two players making way, Jackie Shiels and Amy Davis, are named among the replacements.
Hat-trick hero Sophie Spence will again line out alongside Marie Louise Reilly in the second row and Ireland will be hoping that Lynne Cantwell and Alison Miller, who both scored a brace of tries against the Scotland, can have a similar impact against the Welsh.
Fiona Coghlan will captain the side from loosehead prop, while Ashleigh Baxter comes onto the bench in place of Orla Fitzsimons.
Doyle commented: “The performance we put in against Scotland was coming for some time but we are under no illusions as to the challenge the Welsh girls will present.
“There was only two points between the teams last year so this week we will require a further step up in performance from the group.”
Tickets for the Ireland v Wales Women’s game at Ashbourne RFC will be available for purchase at the gate on Friday.
Tickets prices are as follows: Adult €;10; Student/child €;5; Cars/buses of more than four people, €;5 per person.
Old Belvedere RFC are running supporters’ buses to Ashbourne from Dublin city. The buses will leave Old Belvedere RFC on Anglesea Road at 6pm sharp and pick up at Jury’s Hotel, Custom House Quay at 6.15pm. The buses will return at about 11pm.
For those wishing to travel to the match on the Old Belvedere buses, a ticket (which include entry into the game and the return trip on the bus) costs €;20.
If you would like to reserve seats on the buses, please contact Old Belvedere’s Emer McElhinney (0868892166) or Ann Marie Ruttledge (0871253853).
Meanwhile, captain Rachel Taylor returns to the starting line-up among three changes to the Wales Women’s side to face Ireland.
Taylor will pack down at number 8 and Shona Powell Hughes starts in the second row, while Rebecca de Filippo gets the nod at inside centre.
The trio’s inclusion causes four positional changes to the team that lost 12-11 to Italy at Aberavon last Sunday.
Centre Elen Evans moves to the right wing from midfield, while Robyn Wilkins moves out one spot to outside centre. Catrina Nicholas switches to blindside flanker and Nia Davies moves from the second row to the openside berth.
Flanker Sian Williams and winger Laurie Harries drop down to the replacements bench.
IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Hannah Casey (Saracens/Exile), 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) (capt), Stacey-Lea Kennedy (Cooke/Ulster), 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: Gill Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), Kerrie-Ann Craddock (Saracens/Exile), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Amy Davis (Blackrock/Ulster), Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Exile).
WALES WOMEN: Dyddgu Hywel (Bristol); Elen Evans (Waterloo), Robyn Wilkins (Llandaff North), Rebecca de Filippo (Bristol), Philippa Tuttiett (Bristol); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol), Amy Day (Llandaff North); Megan York (Blaenau Gwent), Lowri Harries (Neath Athletic), Catrin Edwards (Bristol), Jenny Hawkins (Llandaff North), Shona Powell Hughes (Neath Athletic), Catrina Nicholas (Llandaff North), Nia Davies (Cardiff Met), Rachel Taylor (Bristol) (capt).
Replacements: Carys Phillips (Bristol), Jenny Davies (Waterloo), Caryl Thomas (Bath), Sian Williams (Worcester), Sioned Harries (Llandaff North), Sian Moore (Bristol), Laurie Harries (Llandaff North), Ffion Bowen (Maesteg Celtic).
Referee: Nicky Inwood (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Helen O’Reilly, Aoife McCarthy (both Ireland)
Pre-Match Quotes – Philip Doyle (Ireland Women): “All fifteen who started against Scotland played absolutely outstandingly. But as I tell the squad, ‘it is a squad’, so girls have to come in and out to give other girls the experience of starting.
“It was a very exciting first week, (the results) have really blown it wide open with France beating England and Italy winning in Wales. I do not want to be a casualty in week two so it’s so important we get a very good start against Wales.
“Wales are a completely different prospect in comparison to Scotland (in terms of development). We’ve analysed them closely this week and they are very close to be a very, very good team.
“They pose some serious challenges, they pack a big punch up front and their breakdown is exceptional and extremely physical.
“They have this 18-year-old who is now playing (number) 13 and she’s a serious talent and one that has to be watched very closely.
“But while we respect the opposition, it’s all about the way we want to play rugby. It’s so important for any rugby team to be very aggressive and ruthless, and that’s why I was so impressed with our team last weekend – we stayed ruthless in the second half and didn’t lower our standards.
“One area we need to improve is the breakdown. The Scottish didn’t challenge us at all (there), and that is where Wales are strongest – they counter-ruck and their defensive ruck is exceptional. It’s not pretty but it’s an area we really have to sharpen up on.”
Catrin Edwards (Wales Women): “It will be nice to reach 50 caps for Wales and follow my front row buddy ‘Treacle’ (fellow prop Jenny Davies who, with 61 caps, is the most-capped player in the squad) and Cat (Nicholas), but to be honest I would rather us play really well and come off with a win.
“It’s all about the team and the girls flippin’ deserve it. We’ve put in a huge amount of work and I still can’t believe we lost last weekend (12-11 to Italy).
“It’s a really strong Ireland squad but we have just got to go out there and show what we can do.
“The squad environment is the best it has been for a long time. We’ve also got competition for places throughout the squad so everyone knows they could be out if they don’t play their best.
“It’s important we get some positive results in the Six Nations as we want to go in to the World Cup with some momentum.”
Pre-Match Links –
Match Facts –
– The Ireland Women’s – the defending champions and current table toppers after round 1 – have won their last seven matches since England beat them 23-6 at Esher in round 5 of the 2012 tournament
– Ireland have not lost at home since England visited Ashbourne in March 2011
– The last four games that Wales Women have played have all been won by the away side on the day
– Wales, who lost 12-11 at home to Italy last Sunday, are going for a successive third away victory for the first time in their history
– Ireland have won three of their last four encounters with the Welsh, while Wales’ last victory in Ireland came at Templeville Road in Dublin in March 2008
– Irish lock Sophie Spence is top of both the points and try scoring charts after running in a hat-trick of tries in last Friday’s record-breaking 59-0 defeat of Scotland
Recent Meetings –
2011: Women’s Six Nations: Wales Women 15 Ireland Women 14, Pandy Park, Cross Keys RFC
2012: Women’s Six Nations: Ireland Women 36 Wales Women 0, Ashbourne RFC
2013: Women’s Six Nations: Wales Women 10 Ireland Women 12, Talbot Athletic Ground, Aberavon RFC