Thursday 21 November 2019

Women face battle to stay in contention

Sophie Spence
Sophie Spence
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

If you consider the mudfest that Ireland's women had to withstand in Milan two years ago to clinch their Grand Slam, then at the start of this season you looked at the fixtures and reckoned how nice it would be if they could wrap up another title, but in a more appropriate venue.

In which case Broadwood, the home of Clyde FC, 10 miles outside Glasgow presented itself. At an 8,000 capacity it's not the San Siro, but it's a good track and a relatively modern arena, and would have fitted the bill nicely. The only problem is that when Ireland most likely beat Scotland there this day week, in what will be the last game of this Six Nations, France will probably have sealed the deal in Twickenham the previous day.

Instead the Irish girls will have to focus on the delights of Swansea this afternoon, and doing enough against Wales to stay in contention for the title, however slim that chance. Beating Wales, who are looking for a Triple Crown today, is the more straightforward of those two.

The only change on the Ireland side from the win over England in Ashbourne a fortnight ago is for Jackie Shiels to take over in the centre from the injured Katie Fitzhenry, with Aoife Doyle coming onto the bench.

To be in contention, despite the loss of key players from last year's side in captain Fiona Coughlan and Lynne Cantwell, is good going, thanks largely to the excellence of a pack of forwards that still has top-quality operators, not least the second-row pairing of Sophie Spence and Mas Reilly.

They'll be hard pressed however by a Wales side who blew it against France by having two girls binned. They return to the same back division that did so well in the opening win of this campaign over England.

Ireland: N Briggs; H Tyrrell, J Murphy, J Shiels, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; R O'Reilly, G Bourke, A Egan, S Spence, ML Reilly, P Fitzpatrick, H O'Brien, C Molloy. Replacements: S Mimnagh, F Hayes, F O'Brien, O Fitzsimons, K Norris, T Rosser, S Naoupu, A Doyle.

Live on S4C, 12.0

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