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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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Munster looking to claim interpro title with home victory over Connacht

Laura Guest and her teammates are expecting an ‘absolute battle’ at Tralee RFC this afternoon.

Guest has been doing damage for Munster from No. 8 [file photo].
Guest has been doing damage for Munster from No. 8 [file photo].
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MUNSTER CAN SECURE the 2014/15 Women’s Interprovincial title with victory at home against Connacht this afternoon [KO 14.30, Tralee RFC].

After wins on the road against Ulster and Leinster over the last two weekends, Wayne Falvey’s side know four points will ensure they get bragging rights for the next year at least.

That said, Connacht have their own hopes as they travel south, given their heavy success over Ulster and a bonus point in defeat to Leinster. O’Dowd Park is set for what should be an excellent encounter.

Munster captain Laura Guest admits that the absence of several of Ireland’s Women’s Rugby World Cup stars has affected the standard of the interpros somewhat this year, but explains that younger players have been able to flourish with the likes of Niamh Briggs rested after their exertions in France.

“Generally speaking, there have been some good new players on show, which is nice to see,” says Guest. “I suppose the set-piece wouldn’t be as clinical as we might be used to.

It’s good for new players to get this level of representative rugby under their belt. Hopefully, they can push on and be the next set of internationals.”

Munster have benefited from less-heralded players stepping up to the mark, while former Ireland international and Cork footballing star Mairead Kelly has also made an impressive return at fullback.

Irish women’s rugby enjoyed an extended stint in the limelight during the summer months, as Fiona Coghlan and co. beat New Zealand and advanced to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Laura Guest Guest was part of Ireland's impressive World Cup squad. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Has Guest noticed a subsequent growth of interest around the interpros?

“Yeah, I think so. People are more aware we’re playing, first and foremost,” says the Highfield forward. “There are new players joining teams and it’s quite topical still. People are looking out for us playing, wishing us well.

In other years, maybe the inter-pros went under the radar completely. Now people are aware of who we’re playing and our results after the weekend.”

For Guest, who played at the World Cup for Ireland – excelling in the victory over Kazakhstan and featuring strongly off the bench in other games – settling back into the Munster camp has not been an issue, given her sheer passion for the province.

However, getting reacquainted with a rugby-life balance has been demanding for the Cork schoolteacher.

“I absolutely love playing with Munster, I’ve always really relished that. The hard part has been that it’s not a full-time job anymore.

“We had those three and-a-half weeks at the World Cup, it was great that you didn’t have to think about anything else. Now you’re back trying to balance work as well. That becomes the hard part, the working everyday life that goes on as well.”

Mairead Kelly Mairead Kelly has been back in Munster colours during this interpro series. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

England have announced a raft of professional sevens contracts for their female players since the World Cup, something Guest feels is simply “brilliant for women’s rugby.”

The former Clonakilty, UL Bohs and Shannon second row/back row admits that “you could be a bit jealous” of those developments, but underlines her belief that Irish women’s rugby is in a good place to make its own progress.

In just two short weeks, Guest’s attention will turn to a new All-Ireland League campaign with Highfield – for whom she has played for the past seven years – but for now, all eyes are on the task of beating Connacht and claiming that interpro title.

We’re expecting an absolute battle, that’s for certain,” outlines Guest. “I’d be nervous in one way, but quite excited at the chance to play them again. We’d have looked at them and we’re aware that they have a very good scrum, a very good nine and a very threatening back three.

“Across the backline, they’re very good players. We have to be ready to have that excellent defence in play but also to do a little more in attack this time.”

Final round fixtures for 2014/15 Women’s Interprovincial series:

  • Leinster v Ulster [13.30, Ashbourne RFC]
  • Munster v Connacht [14.30, Tralee RFC]

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Murray Kinsella

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