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Ireland Women excited to see 16-year-old flyer Parsons step up against US

The Ballinasloe product helped the Connacht U18s to inter-pro success in September.

NAMING A 16-year-old in a senior international rugby squad will always raise a few eyebrows but Ireland Women have no doubt that Beibhinn Parsons is ready.

The Connacht flyer, who has come through Ballinasloe RFC, will be on the bench on Sunday when Ireland take on the US in Donnybrook [KO 1pm] and she will become the youngest Irish international ever if she makes an appearance.

Beibhinn Parsons 15/9/2018 Parsons in Connacht colours this season. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

While Ireland are keen not to put pressure on the teenager, who turns 17 at the end of this month, they’re excited about her potential and feel Parsons is physically prepared to step up against the States.

“Anyone who has watched her play over the past few months will have seen her physical capabilities and how much she has imposed herself at U18 level,” said Ireland Women head coach Adam Griggs.

“I was lucky enough to have her through the U18 Sevens, that’s where she really stood out to me. I think in the last Home Nations tournament she scored 12 tries. 

“That was an indicator that physically she looked like she could really challenge our senior players. The idea was to bring her in as a development player and see how she coped physically first, but what she has shown in the past four camps is an understanding of the game.  

“While it’s not completely all there right now, this is an experience I don’t think you can buy. She has certainly earned a spot on the bench. Hopefully, if things go well, she can get on the field and show us what she has got.”

Parsons, who helped Connacht to the U18 inter-provincial title back in September, will cover the wings and fullback for Ireland from the bench.

While her athleticism and skill level could see Parsons eventually move into the midfield, the back three makes sense for now.

“Things like reading and understanding the game, that’s her challenge at the moment to work through but at 16-years-old, you expect that,” said Griggs.

Beibhinn Parsons celebrates scoring a try with Niamh Kenny and Meabh Deely 15/9/2018 Parsons is set for her debut off the bench. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It’s about putting her in that situation where she can come on in the back three, she won’t have to make as many decisions. It’s about showing what she has with ball-in-hand and really making sure the inside players set her up to show what she can do.”

A possible debut for Parsons adds a layer of intrigue to Ireland’s clash with the US on Sunday but she’s not the only player set for her first bow in Test rugby.

Griggs has handed debuts to Lauren Delaney and Laura Sheehan in Ireland’s starting team this weekend, while hooker Emma Hooban is also set to win her first cap off the bench.

Firwood Waterloo Ladies fullback Delaney is an IQ Rugby product.

“We went over [to the UK] in August and did some screenings,” said Griggs. “She popped up there and we thought, ‘She looks pretty decent’.

“We said to Lauren that we liked what we had seen, just send us on your footage in the Premiership. In the first two weeks, Lauren got Try of the Week and the next week was setting up the Try of the Week. From that perspective, we couldn’t have asked for more.”

UL Bohemians and Munster left wing Sheehan is another new player that Griggs is excited to hand an opportunity to.

“Laura stood out in the inter-pros,” said the Ireland coach. “You want to see her go, she is a wee rocket. She is a very dynamic carrier.

“Again, a little bit like Beibhinn, her rugby IQ and where she could pop up and make herself more available is a work-on for her. What she brings physically and around the field is exciting to see.”

Laura Sheehan tackled by Ciara O’Connor and Laura Feely Munster's Laura Sheehan gets her shot on the left wing. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

With Cliodhna Moloney out injured, Leinster hooker Hooban gets a shot on the bench.

“She’s another player who has come through the system. She was playing rugby from seven, eight-years-old. We are seeing a youths rugby system in play as opposed to maybe a few years ago when some of our girls were starting to play in college.

“Emma is one who actually has a good bit of experience. She certainly stood out in the inter-pros. Her ball carrying around the park is phenomenal. She reminds me a lot of Cliodhna, they are very similar players.”

While there are familiar faces in the Ireland team to take on the US in the likes of Sene Naoupu, Lindsay Peat and captain Ciara Griffin, this Ireland team has a fresh feel to it.

“The depth is definitely growing for us,” said Griggs. “I’m still very much a fan of having our experienced players experience these Test matches.

“There are no matches in the summer after the Six Nations, so it’s not about making wholesale changes, but the four new caps have definitely earned their spots. It’s exciting for them and it keeps our more experienced players on their toes.”

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Murray Kinsella

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