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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 26 May, 2019
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TV slot clash means Ireland Women will play at 5pm on a Friday

The IRFU says a Sunday kick-off was not viable due to a possible four-day turnaround between games.

IRELAND WOMEN’S 2019 Six Nations opener against England on Friday 1 February  will be played at 5pm due to the unavailability of an ideal live TV slot.

The fixtures for next year’s championship were released last week, with several supporters of Irish women’s rugby greeting the announcement of the 5pm kick-off at Donnybrook with dismay. 

Paula Fitzpatrick and Ciara Cooney Ireland will be looking to open with a win against England in February. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Reservations have been expressed about how some fans will be able to get to the Dublin venue for kick-off at a busy time on a Friday evening.

The fixture announcement followed the IRFU launching its new ‘Women in Rugby‘ action plan two weeks ago, stating that one of the union’s core principles is to be “a sport of equal opportunity and access for all.”

When contacted by The42, a spokesperson for the IRFU said a decision to schedule the game for 5pm on 1 February had been reached due to a possible clash with the Ireland U20s game on TV, as well as Ireland Women’s game against Scotland the weekend after.

The Ireland U20s face England in their own Six Nations opener at 7.15pm on 1 February at Musgrave Park.

“There were two TV slots available for the Ireland Women’s opening Six Nations fixture against England. Those were on Sunday 3 February and Friday 1 February,” reads an IRFU statement.

“With the Scotland fixture taking place the following week on Friday 8 February, the decision was made to take the Friday 1 February evening slot as a four-day turnaround was not a viable option for the players, and to ensure the game was aired on television.”

The early kick-off time may mean a smaller crowd at Donnybrook than would have been the case.

Ireland Women’s other home fixture in next year’s Six Nations against France will get underway at the more ideal time of 7pm in Donnybrook on Saturday 9 March.

Adam Griggs’ side are currently preparing for their two upcoming November Tests, with a home tie against USA at Donnybrook on Sunday 18 November [KO 1pm] followed by a visit to Twickenham to take on England on Saturday 24 November [KO 5pm].

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Murray Kinsella

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