Seven new faces as Ireland eye title defence
Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30
Ireland women's coach Tom Tierney has opted for a 'blend of youth and experience' as he named seven uncapped players in his Six Nations squad.
Ireland will kick off the defence of their title against Wales next weekend and will do so at their new Donnybrook home.
A week later, they will take on world champions England at Twickenham following the men's clash. It represents an exciting time in the sport with the World Cup set to be played in Ireland next year.
Amongst the new faces included by Tierney are Munster pair Zoe Grattage and Ciara Griffin, with Ciara O'Connor (Connacht) and Grainne Egan (Connacht) adding some ballast to the forward pack.
Outside of them, Munster winger Liz Burke joins Elise O'Byrne-White (Leinster) and Claire McLaughlin (Ulster) as the fresh faces in the back line.
The vastly experienced Niamh Briggs will again captain the side and she has welcomed the balance within the squad.
"It's important for us to take it game by game," Briggs said.
"We've got to really get ourselves sorted for Wales in two weeks' time and not look much further than that. I don't think we can.
"It's a new enough squad again and it's important that we just concentrate on one game at a time.
"It's great for us. The end product is the World Cup next year and we've got to build a squad that is really strong across all 25, 30 players. I suppose Sevens has been the priority this year for (Olympic) qualification.
"November was a great learning curve, playing against the world champions in front of a big crowd and they (new players) didn't fear it.
"It's a really exciting time and it's great to see some new blood in the camp. I feel like I've been saying that for the last few years and that's the really exciting part of it.
"You want to leave the game in a better place when you eventually retire and I think we're on the right path to doing that," she added.
As Briggs pointed out, Ireland's main goal will be next year's World Cup and without their key Sevens stars like Jenny Murphy and Alison Miller, plenty of players will be given a chance to impress in the Six Nations campaign. "We have named a squad full of talent for this year's championship," Tierney maintained.
"There is a nice blend of youth and experience and the vibe in the camp has been very positive over the last few weeks.
"We've had the opportunity to see a lot of the girls play and we've looked at a number of combinations. The newer members of the squad are doing really well, so we're looking forward to getting the campaign under way and seeing what the girls can do".
Ireland Women's Six Nations 2016 Squad
Forwards: Elaine Anthony, Ciara Cooney, Ailis Egan, Grainne Egan*, Paula Fitzpatrick, Orla Fitzsimons, Zoe Grattage*, Ciara Griffin*, Claire Molloy, Cliodhna Moloney, Heather O'Brien, Fiona O'Brien, Ciara O'Connor*, Ruth O'Reilly, Lindsay Peat, Fiona Reidy, Marie-Louise Reilly, Sophie Spence. Backs: Niamh Briggs, Liz Burke*, Nikki Caughey , Mairead Coyne, Aine Donnelly, Mary Healy, Claire McLaughlin*, Larissa Muldoon, Sene Naoupu, Elise O'Byrne-White*, Jackie Shiels, Nora Stapleton.
(* Denotes uncapped player)