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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 30 September 2020
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'One of our aims is to play good rugby, not just good women's rugby'

The women’s inter-pro series kicks off tonight, and Australian Ben Armstrong is hoping to guide Leinster to a fifth title.

Ben Armstrong pictured at UCD this week.
Ben Armstrong pictured at UCD this week.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

NEW LEINSTER WOMEN’S head coach Ben Armstrong believes the decision to switch the inter-provincial series from its customary December slot to September will allow all four provinces to play a more expansive, attacking brand of rugby. 

The 2018 inter-pros get underway this evening when Leinster host Ulster at Stradbrook [KO 7pm], before Munster face Connacht at Musgrave Park on Saturday [2.30pm], and the change to early-season conditions should facilitate the most competitive series yet.  

Leinster are bidding to regain the title they surrendered to Munster on points difference last year under the tutelage of Armstrong, who has assumed the reins from Adam Griggs following his appointment to the Ireland head coach role on a permanent basis.

The eastern and southern provinces have dominated the inter-pro championship since its inception in 2001, with Munster leading the way with 13 titles to Leinster’s four, but Connacht, in particular, have been closing the gap in recent seasons.

Although Leinster go into tonight’s opener without the benefit of a warm-up game, an extended build-up period has allowed Armstrong work closely with his reduced 30-player squad, which is led by Ireland centre Sene Naoupu.

“The inter-pros used to be during club season and the girls were going off and playing each other at weekends and coming back and training together,” Armstrong said.

“The fact we have been able to have them isolated in the sense that they’re on their own, training as a Leinster squad, has been very beneficial. 

“We had a three-day camp in The King’s Hospital which increased our training time and we’ve been together for eight solid weeks of pre-season, so the focus now is to come away with three wins.”

Larissa Muldoon and Sene Naoupu Ulster captain Larissa Muldoon and Sene Naoupu. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Armstrong has lost valuable experience throughout his side with Sophie Spence and Orla Fitzsimons hanging up their boots and last year’s captain Paula Fitzpatrick taking time out of the game, while Jenny Murphy remains sidelined through injury.

The presence of Naoupu in midfield is therefore magnified but there is excitement around the potential of several young players, with Armstrong’s first Leinster XV including as many as seven uncapped players. 

“One of the things we need to do, and momentum is a big thing in sport, is to get off to a good start,” he added. “Certainly we’re expecting a little bit of rustiness but we’ve decided to keep it simple, but to be brilliantly simple.

“That’s one of the words we’ve put on the dressing room and we’re looking to take on with us through the campaign. We’re not looking to overcomplicate things but certainly we’re looking for accuracy and to start that momentum. It’s okay if we’re making mistakes but we’re working hard together and doing the things we’ve worked on. 

“One of our aims is to play good rugby, not just good women’s rugby. We’re excited to go and do that on Friday night.” 

2018 women’s inter-pro fixtures:

Friday 31 August

  • Leinster v Ulster, Stradbrook, 7pm

Saturday 1 September

  • Munster v Connacht, Musgrave Park, 2.30pm

Sunday 9 September

  • Ulster v Munster, Portadown RFC, 1pm 
  • Connacht v Leinster, The Sportsground, 3pm 

Saturday 15 September 

  • Connacht v Ulster, The Sportsground, 2.30pm
  • Leinster v Munster, Donnybrook, 7.30pm  

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Ryan Bailey

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