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Six Nations Preview: Italy Women v Ireland Women

Six Nations Preview: Italy Women v Ireland Women

Tom Tierney and Niamh Briggs are hoping for a winning start to their respective coaching and captaincy tenures when the Ireland Women’s team begin their Six Nations campaign in Florence this evening.


ITALY WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Stadio Mario Lodigiani, Florence, 7pm Irish time/6pm local time (live stream on www.youtube.com/fedrugby)

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Team News: New Ireland Women’s head coach Tom Tierney has announced his team for the 2015 Women’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy in Florence.

There are six uncapped players named in the matchday squad – Leinster’s Hannah Tyrrell will make her debut on the right wing, while Sarah Mimnagh, Fiona O’Brien, Katie Norris, Katie Fitzhenry and Sene Naoupu have all been named on the bench.

Up front, Gillian Bourke is named at hooker and will be joined by Ruth O’Reilly and Ailis Egan in the front row. A familiar second row sees Marie Louise Reilly and Sophie Spence pair up again, and Paula Fitzpatrick, Claire Molloy and Heather O’Brien complete the pack.

Larissa Muldoon is named at scrum half and will be partnered at half-back by Nora Stapleton. Jackie Shiels and Jenny Murphy make up the centre partnership, with Alison Miller joining Tyrrell and new captain Niamh Briggs in the back-three.

Tierney said: “There is a natural changeover with the number of players retiring after last season, but there is a core group of senior players that are very experienced and talented. We also have a number of younger players who are very talented and have a lot of promise so it’s a good mix.

“It’s going to be a very tough game over in Italy. We are under no illusions, but we are going over there very confident that we will be competitive.”

The round 1 game in Florence will be streamed live on www.federugby.it and www.youtube.com/fedrugby.

Meanwhile, Italy boss Andrea di Giandomenico has selected a team with a strong and experienced spine, led by Monza number 8 Silvia Gaudino who has captained her country since 2011.

Starting half-backs Veronica Schiavon and Sara Barattin have 127 Test caps between them, while full-back Manuela Furlan (41 caps), Gaudino (61), prop Elisa Cucchiella (47) and lock Flavia Severin (42) can bank on a wealth of Test experience.

Of the side that lost 39-0 to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium last March, there are 10 survivors in the starting line-up – Furlan, Maria Diletta Veronese and Michela Sillari in the back-three, centre Maria Grazia Cioffi, half-backs Schiavon and Barattin, prop Melissa Bettoni, lock Alice Trevisan and back rowers Ilaria Arrighetti and Gaudino.

Women’s RBS 6 Nations Results/Fixtures

Women’s RBS 6 Nations Table

ITALY WOMEN: Manuela Furlan (Benetton Treviso); Maria Diletta Veronese (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Sofia Stefan (Rennes), Maria Grazia Cioffi (Rugby Benevento), Michela Sillari (HBS Colorno); Veronica Schiavon (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Sara Barattin (Rugby Casale); Elisa Cucchiella (Belve NeroVerdi), Lucia Cammarano (SR Monza 1949), Melissa Bettoni (Rennes), Flavia Severin (Benetton Treviso), Alice Trevisan (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Ilaria Arrighetti (ASR Monza 1949), Elisa Giordano (Valsugana Padova), Silvia Gaudino (ASR Monza) (capt).

Replacements: Awa Coulibaly (Rennes), Irene Campanini (HBS Colorno), Michela Este (Benetton Treviso), Alessia Pantarotto (Sitam Riviera del Brenta), Valentina Ruzza (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Beatrice Rigoni (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Paola Zangirolami (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Maria Magatti (ASR Monza 1949).

IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt); Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Exile), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Skewen); Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Gillian Bourke (Olympico de Pozuelo), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster).

Replacements: Sarah Mimnagh (Wasps/Exile), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Katie Norris (Blackrock/Leinster), Tania Rosser (Blackrock/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht).

Referee: Sara Cox (England)
Assistant Referees: Maria Beatrice Benvenuti, Clara Munarini (both Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Italy Women to win: 11/2; Draw: 25/1; Ireland Women to win: 1/10

Pre-Match Quotes – Niamh Briggs (Ireland Women): “Italy play a very good brand of rugby and they’re very into their general movement and seeing where the space is. So defensively you’ve got to be in tune all the time and if not they’ll catch you on the hop.

“They’ve got an extremely good back-three that can counter from anywhere. yeah look it’s going to be difficult for us, first game under a new structure so patience is going to be a big thing for us.

“The Six Nations campaign will be a test of our character but we’ll relish that and we’re looking forward to getting started against Italy and doing something we really love. We want everyone to stand up and take responsibility. We train incredibly hard and have a number of new girls who have fitted in really well.

“We have a good base of really strong leaders in the squad and that is needed because we have lost five or six senior girls who have been excellent leaders.

“It’s a massive thing for me to be Ireland captain – I was driving home when I received the phone call and I nearly crashed the car! I wasn’t expecting it at all but it’s an absolute honour.”

Silvia Gaudino (Italy Women): “We’ll take it game by game, but certainly we’ll be looking to win at least two games as we did last year. The first one against Ireland will be a hard one but we’ll do our best.

“We missed (World Cup) qualification last year which we weren’t happy about – it had been our target and we wanted to achieve it, but it didn’t happen. So, this year we are determined to get good results so that next year we can complete our qualification for the World Cup in 2017.

“There are few changes to the squad from last year. There have been some new arrivals of young players and overall it is a mix of youth and experience.”

Pre-Match Links –

Briggs: New Players Have Hit The Ground Running

New-Look Ireland Get The Better Of Wales

In Pics: Ireland Women 31 Wales Women 12

Ireland Women’s Squad Named For RBS 6 Nations

Match Facts –

– The Italy Women’s team achieved their best ever Six Nations finish last season – fourth – winning two games against Wales and Scotland

– The Ireland Women’s finished in fourth place at the World Cup in France last August, having claimed third spot in the Six Nations earlier in the year

– Ireland’s only defeat in their last five matches came against England in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Paris

– The two countries have met on a dozen previous occasions in a Women’s international with Italy’s only previous win being 13-5 in Nice in their first encounter back in April 1997

Recent Meetings –

2012: Women’s Six Nations: Ireland Women 40 Italy Women 10, Ashbourne RFC

2013: Women’s Six Nations: Italy Women 3 Ireland Women 6, Parabiago, Milan

2014: Women’s Six Nations: Ireland Women 39 Italy Women 0, Aviva Stadium