Ireland have named a strong squad to take on the England Women’s Rugby team for the Six Nations opener, in Donnybrook this Friday. Munster's Ciara Griffin will captain the team at number eight, as Ireland look to build on last year’s third-place finish at the Championships.
There are three Six Nations Championship debuts as Juliet Short, Nicole Fowley and Lauren Delany are named in the starting XV. Short impressed on her first appearance in the Green jersey only last November against England, as Ireland were defeated 37-15.
Lauren Delany is set to take the Championships by storm as the fleet-footed fullback has impressed impressive since her international debut against the USA in November. Delany is an all-action fullback who certainly knows her way over the English try-line having scored in the November Test at Twickenham.
Delany will be supported by Munster’s flyer Eimear Considine and former Rugby Seven’s star Megan Williams on the wings.
Despite naming three un-capped Six Nations players in the starting XV, Ireland have enough experience in the team to lead this exciting Irish team to battle. Leinster’s Sene Naoupu and Wasps’ Claire Molloy are both available and selected to take carry the fight to the English.
Leah Lyons is named at hooker, with Laura Feely and Fiona Reidy making up the front row. Linda Djougang, Anne Marie O’Hora and Kathryn Dane are the three uncapped players named among the replacements. Michelle Claffey will join Naoupu to make up the centre partnership, while Alisa Hughes starts at scrum-half.
The Irish team will be filled with confidence after a 29-19 victory over Wales in a warm-up game at Energia Park two weeks ago. Irish captain Ciara Griffin, Anna Caplice and Lauren Delany crossed the white line for Ireland in the first half, before Laura Sheehan and debutant Linda Djougang secured victory after a spirited Welsh fightback.
Ireland will also be buoyed by the return of winger Alison Miller, who is making her Six Nations return after fracturing her fibula and tibia, as well as sustaining a compound ankle fracture exactly a year-ago.
Miller has been working with the Ireland’s fastest woman Phil Healy and her coach, Shane McCormack to perfect her running technique and speed work. The speedy winger said:
“Hopefully I’ll get on the pitch and, if I do, it would be a very proud moment. It took one hell of an effort to get there, and yeah, to be honest I never thought I’d play rugby again, never mind having the opportunity to be involved with Ireland again.
I missed it so much. It’s good to be back.”
As full-time players, England are undoubtedly favourites for tomorrow’s clash. Earlier this month England commenced their full-time Women’s XV Programme which offered 28 English players professional contracts.
The Red Roses are captained by Sarah Hunter who will be making her 109th international appearance in white, whilst she is also joined by fellow 2014 World Cup winners Katy Daley-Mclean, Emily Scarratt, Marlie Packer and Natasha Hunt.
In the last tournament, Ireland suffered defeat to eventual winners France as well as second place England and fourth place Scotland. Victories came against both Wales and Italy. Ireland will be looking to build on their performances and will unquestionably fancy their chances in causing a major upset.
IRELAND TEAM TO FACE ENGLAND:
15. Lauren Delany (Firwood Waterloo Ladies/IQ Rugby)
14. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster)
13. Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
12. Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/Leinster)
11. Megan Williams (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
10. Nicole Fowley (Galwegians/Connacht)
9. Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster)
1. Laura Feely (Galwegians/Connacht)
2. Leah Lyons (Harlequins)
3. Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster)
4. Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster)
5. Nichola Fryday (Galwegians/Connacht)
6. Juliet Short (Railway Union/Leinster)
7. Claire Molloy (Wasps)
8. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt)
16. Emma Hooban (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
17. Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
18. Anne-Marie O’Hora (Galwegians/Connacht) *
19. Anna Caplice (Richmond)
20. Claire McLaughlin (Old Belvedere/Ulster)
21. Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster) *
22. Ellen Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
23. Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
* Uncapped player at international level