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Six Nations Preview: Ireland Women v Wales Women

Six Nations Preview: Ireland Women v Wales Women

Having lost their two home matches in last year’s Championship, the Ireland Women’s team are doubly determined to launch their 2012 Six Nations challenge with a win over Wales at their Ashbourne base.


IRELAND WOMEN v WALES WOMEN, Ashbourne RFC, 7.30pm (highlights on Irish Rugby TV next week)

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Team News: The Ireland Women’s team to play Wales in their opening game of the RBS Women’s 6 Nations Championship at Ashbourne RFC tonight has been named.

The side has a new look and includes two new caps in the starting fifteen and a further four uncapped players in the replacements.

Newcomer Ashleigh Baxter will earn her first cap at full-back with Alison Miller and Niamh Kavanagh completing the back-three.

Ireland’s most capped player, Lynne Cantwell, will start at out-half and will form a new half-back pairing with Amy Davis, while Grace Davitt returns to the team after missing out last season and forms the centre partnership with Niamh Briggs.

Up front Fiona Coghlan will again captain the side and she is joined in the front row by Gillian Bourke and Ailis Egan.

Sophie Spence is the other new cap in the second row and she starts alongside the now established Marie Louise Reilly.

The back row has an experienced look with Laura Guest and Claire Molloy packing down either side of the ever impressive Joy Neville.

The match kicks off at 7.30pm at Ashbourne RFC tonight and there is a return coach for all supporters leaving Anglesea Road (Old Belvedere RFC) an hour before kick-off.

The cost is 20 euro and includes admission to the game and two drinks at the bar. For bookings, please contact Jenny on 0833766401.

Meanwhile, Wales Women head coach Rhys Edwards has named Neath Athletic speedster Rosie Fletcher as the only uncapped player in his side to take on Ireland.

The only other newcomer to the Welsh line-up is replacement prop Megan York, who has made rapid strides this season with Blaenau Gwent, Cross Keys and the Dragons.

Rachel Taylor will lead the team from openside flanker after taking over the captaincy duties from the unavailable Catrin Edwards.

Naomi Thomas also returns to the international fold after taking a season out last year and her experience at out-half could be crucial for the visitors.

IRELAND WOMEN: Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Highfield/Connacht); Lynne Cantwell (Exile), Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Exile), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Exile), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).

Replacements: Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Larissa Muldoon (Exile/UWIC/Ulster), Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), AN Other.

WALES WOMEN: Mared Evans; Charlie Murray, Philippa Tuttiett, Adi Taviner, Rosie Fletcher; Naomi Thomas, Laura Prosser; Caryl Thomas, Rhian Bowden, Jenny Davies, Vicky Owens, Shona Powell Hughes, Sioned Harries, Rachel Taylor (capt), Jamie Kift.

Replacements: Lowri Harries, Megan York, Sian Williams, Clare Flowers, Amy Day, Rebecca De Filippo, Caryl James.

Referee: Kevin White (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Dermot Blake, Edward Kenny (both Ireland)

Pre-Match Quotes: Fiona Coghlan (Ireland Women) – “We will have had four weekends together and there are some new faces in the squad, so it will be good to see how they gel with the side in the first game out against Wales.

“The Welsh are similar to ourselves in that we haven’t had much time in games to work on things, so I would say we will be fairly even.

“Every team wants more game-time. We haven’t played in a year so we would love to have had but you have to just get on with it. As a player you want to play as many games as possible but that’s what we are dealt with.

“There are some young girls in the squad this year who have come all the way up through the ranks which is fantastic for us to see that happening.

“The coaches have some selection headaches to choose that starting 15 not just the squad itself. We are in a positive place given the preparation we have had.

“Finishing third again (in the Championship) is something we would hope for as a minimum. We’ve done that the last few years and with our numbers and resources, that’s a good return. This year we’ve got France and England away which is always the tough year of fixtures for us.

“Both teams are superb at home and France away is probably one of those games where we have never really managed to do ourselves justice.

“We have managed to beat them at home so we would love to go there and do something special. Their support is phenomenal at home and the show they put on for games is fantastic so that’s a tough one.

“We love playing at Ashbourne. The pitch is excellent and the community around there really get behind us and we have a good enough record there, so three home matches for us is something for us to really look forward to.”

Rhys Edwards (Wales Women) – “Rosie (Fletcher) is a raw talent on the wing. She is an exciting prospect and is pretty quick and I’m confident she has the ability to perform at international level, while Megan (York) has done really well this season and deserves her place on the bench.

“Catrin Edwards’ absence is a huge blow to us as she was a great leader as well as giving us plenty of go forward from prop. In saying that, we still have plenty of experience with Jenny Davies and Caryl Thomas both playing well.

“We’ve also lost Ceri Redman and Elen Evans who would have been an exciting combination in midfield, but with Philippa Tuttiett and Adi Taviner we have more than able replacements.”

“With the open game we want to play, Naomi (Thomas) is the perfect foil at out-half. She’s got great hands and we want to play an expansive game which will suit her down to the ground.

“Ireland will be tough first up as they are always difficult to beat at home. If we can sneak a result there and do well against Scotland that will give us a bit of momentum for our trip to Twickenham where we face England.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: Philip Doyle

Irish Rugby TV: Joy Neville

Irish Rugby TV: Larissa Muldoon

Support The Girls In Green In Ashbourne

Recent Meetings –

2009: RBS Women’s 6 Nations: Wales Women 13 Ireland Women 10, Taffs Well RFC, Cardiff

2010: RBS Women’s 6 Nations: Ireland Women 18 Wales Women 3, Ashbourne RFC

2011: RBS Women’s 6 Nations: Wales Women 15 Ireland Women 14, Cross Keys RFC, Gwent