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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 14 October, 2019
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Ireland out to reap benefits of inaugural November series with World Cup in view

Head coach Tom Tierney is hoping the three tough Tests will prepare his squad for next August’s home World Cup.

THE RESULT WEST of the Atlantic has made us throw that word ‘historic’ around rugby much more than we usually would this time of year.

But long before Ireland’s men ended 111 years without a win over New Zealand, the IRFU pushed the boundaries of the women’s game by putting together the forthcoming November series.

The three-Test run begins at 2pm in UCD when Ireland host England – a reverse fixture to last year’s one-off clash in London (more history!)

England players celebrate at the final whistle Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The world champs opened up their own schedule with a 10 – 5 win over Six Nations champions France at the Twickenham Stoop on Wednesday. But they haven’t spared the horses in Dublin with 10 of the 23 boasting over 50 caps, most notably loosehead Rochelle Clarke who will win a record-equalling 115th England cap when she starts in Belfield.

With a World Cup now within countdown range though, the focus is on how Ireland are shaping up before hosting.

After the might of England, Tom Tierney’s side will host World Cup bronze medallists Canada before rounding off the month against New Zealand.

Tough Tests, big asks, but absolutely invaluable preparation and time together for a side who have too often been left with long tracts of time in between matches.

“It just goes to show the women’s game is growing at a huge rate,” Tierney said after watching his team drawn alongside France and Australia for next August’s home World Cup.

Nora Stapleton Out-half Nora Stapleton warming up. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’re looking at it as a trial run for the World Cup in nine months’ time. It’s three tough games over the course of two weeks, so it’ll be a high attrition rate. But it’s something we need to get done because we need to know how these things work and experience them before we have to do it in nine months.”

Tierney is voicing a concern that the physical rigours of beating the USA and the Black Ferns in 2014 took its toll in the knock-out matches that followed. Making history is always well worth celebrating, but for those breaking down barriers, there’s little satisfaction if the feats are not followed up.

Aside from encouraging big performances against three of the world’s very best teams over the coming weeks, Tierney will aim to dig his squad depth further – finding solutions and alternatives in positions so that the fatigue factor can be limited down the road.

In terms of the ‘what-ifs’ that can happen in a World Cup, we hope to experience those on our own terms beforehand, as opposed to things happening which we haven’t planned accordingly for.

“Outside pressure or pressure itself could then impact on us. That would be bad planning by us, so it’s very important that we plan as much as possible for November, the Six Nations so that we’re going in as ready as we can be.”

For today’s Test, experimentation will be more of a necessity than choice for Tierney.

Captain Niamh Briggs misses out with a hamstring injury leaving Mairead Coyne to start at fullback. An ankle injury picked up in training by Claire McLaighlin gives an opportunity to Galwegians Nicole Fowley to start in the centre alongside her former club-mate Sene Naoupu.

Nicole Fowley Fowley in action for Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It’ll be a balancing act between older players, new players and different ideas we have in relation to combinations. You just don’t want to overdo the experimentation and then lose focus of the match itself and the game that’s in front of you,” Tierney cautioned before unveiling his team-sheet.

“We want to grow a squad as best we can and get to know players a small bit more. Because you can see them in club games, see them in camps, but the only way you can really test them and see what they’re made of is in Test matches.”

Sena Naoupu Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“To have three matches, England to start with on Sunday, will be very tough. But then you have teams you wouldn’t normally play: it’s hugely beneficial.

“It’s great for the girls, it’s great for our own planning and we’re really looking forward to it. It goes to show the way the women’s game is starting to grow and it’s going to get very very big.”

Ireland

15. Mairead Coyne (Galwegians / Connacht)
14. Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians / Munster)
13. Nicole Fowley (Galwegians / Connacht)*
12. Sene Naoupu (Aylesford Bulls)
11. Alison Miller (Old Belvedere / Connacht)
10. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere / Leinster)
9. Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union)

1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union / Leinster)
2. Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union / Leinster)
3. Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere / Leinster)
4. Maire-Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere / Leinster)
5. Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s / Leinster)
6. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians / Munster)
7. Claire Molloy (Bristol / Connacht)
8. Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s / Leinster) Capt

Replacements:

16. Leah Lyons (Highfield / Munster)*
17. Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians / Munster)
18. Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians / Munster)
19. Katie Norris (Blackrock College / Leinster)
20. Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemians / Munster)*
21. Mary Healy (Galwegians / Connacht)
22. Nikki Caughey (Railway Union / Ulster)
23. Jackie Shiels (Old Belvedere / Leinster)

England

15. Danielle Waterman (Bristol)
14. Kay Wilson (Richmond)
13. Claire Allan (Saracens)
12. Rachael Burford (Aylesford Bulls)
11. Fiona Pocock (Aylesford Bulls)
10. Emily Scott (Saracens)
9. La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

1. Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries)
2. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens)
3. Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries)
4. Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
5 Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
6. Alex Matthews (Richmond)
7. Marlie Packer (Bristol)
8. Sarah Hunter (Bristol) Capt.

Replacements:

16. Amy Cokayne (Lichfield)
17. Vickii Cornborough (Aylesford Bulls)
18. Sarah Bern (Bristol)
19. Poppy Cleall (Bristol)
20. Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol)
21 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
22 Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
23 Ceri Large (Worcester Valkyries)

*denotes uncapped player.

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Proximity of toughest Tests tempers Irish excitement for Women’s Rugby World Cup

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Sean Farrell

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