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IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship kicks off

Sene Naoupu


It’s all go in Ireland this weekend as the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship gets under way with two highly-anticipated clashes.

It’s all go in Ireland this weekend as the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship gets under way with two highly-anticipated clashes.

The games mark the long-awaited return to competitive action for fans and players alike in Ireland, and will entertain audiences for the next three weekends.

The Leinster Women’s team get their campaign underway against Ulster on Friday night as the teams look to dethrone defending Interpro champions Munster, who begin their title defence on Saturday against Connacht.

Round 1
Leinster Women v Ulster Women
Friday 31 August, 7pm
Stradbrook, Blackrock College RFC

Interpro’s never fail to bring intense rugby to the pitch and Friday night will be no different, with Ulster fielding a team burgeoning with both internationals and exciting young talent.

Ulster’s experience begins at full-back, where Grand Slam-winning Larissa Muldoon once again displays her versatility after playing at No.15 and out-half in last year’s Interpro’s.

Muldoon is joined by fellow Ireland international Claire McLaughlin, who starts in the back row, while experienced props Ilse van Staden and Sorcha Mac Laimhin are in the front row.

Cooke duo Eliza Downey and Emma Jordan are the other members of an exciting back three, while Maeve Liston and Vicky Irwin will be looking to make a big impact in the centres.

Cooke’s Jemma Jackson is at out-half and joined in the half-backs by Kathryn Dane, with captain Muldoon looking forward to the challenge of facing Leinster.

“We’re looking to right the wrongs from last season,” she said. “This summer, we’ve put in a lot of hard work with our S&C (strength and conditioning) and we have some great young players coming through.”

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of change at Leinster, with Sene Naoupu taking over the captaincy and Australian Ben Armstrong taking inheriting the head coach reins from Adam Griggs.

The Dublin-based province lost out on a Championship crown last year by just two points, being pipped to the post by Munster, and have included ten uncapped players in their squad.

“We’re very excited to get into the series,” said Naoupu. “We’ve been building up over the last six weeks and we’re really looking forward to getting into it this Friday in Blackrock.

 “Ulster will be very tough and it will be a big challenge – a strong pack and we will have to be prepared as possible.”

Round 1
Munster Women v Connacht Women
Saturday 1 September, 2.30pm
Irish Independent Park, Cork

Munster being their Interpro title defence on Saturday 1 September when Connacht come calling to Cork’s Irish Independent Park.

The Munster team will be led by this season’s co-captains Fiona Hayes and Chloe Pearse, who start at prop and No.8 respectively.

There is no shortage of international experience in the team for this Saturday either, with former Ireland captain Niamh Briggs teaming up with Niamh Kavanagh in the centres.

Ireland skipper Ciara Griffin is at openside flanker whilst fellow international Nicole Cronin starts at scrum-half.

Speaking about the first game, Munster co-captain Hayes said: “Every year, I think every team is the team to beat.

“Connacht first up is going to be a massive challenge. They caught us last year but we have them in Irish Independent Park this year. We have the cup and we want to keep it.”

Connacht certainly won’t let Munster have things their own way and head coach Jarleth Naughton has gone with the same pack that edged the province to a famous 19-15 win over Saturday’s opposition last December.

That means Connacht skipper Grainne Egan is in the back row alongside Edel McMahon and Nichola Fryday, both members of Ireland’s 2018 Women’s Six Nations squad.

Nicola Caldbeck and Amelie Roux are in the second row, while Ireland international Mairead Coyne will be hoping to make a big impression as a replacement.

Egan commented: “Each game is like a cup game but we’re happy to face Munster first and we’re really looking forward to it.”

CONNACHT WOMEN v LEINSTER WOMEN, the Sportsground, Sunday, September 9, 3pm
ULSTER WOMEN v MUNSTER WOMEN, Chambers Park, Portadown RFC, Sunday, September 9, 1pm

CONNACHT WOMEN v ULSTER WOMEN, the Sportsground, Saturday, September 15, 2.30pm
LEINSTER WOMEN v MUNSTER WOMEN, Energia Park, Donnybrook, Saturday, September 15, 7.30pm