Simon Middleton’s team travel to Clermont-Ferrand to take on France on November 9, before returning home to play Quilter Internationals against the same opposition at Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park and Italy at Bedford Blues’ Goldington Road.
While the Blues’ home ground is yet to host an women’s international, the Red Roses’ last outing at Sandy Park attracted a record 10,545 crowd who were treated to a dominant 55-0 Six Nations victory over Italy in March.
“Playing France at any time is always a real challenge, it’s one of the toughest places to go,” Middleton said.
“To then come back and play them on home soil at Exeter will be great – when we played there against Italy in the Six Nations it was probably the highlight of the tournament, with the exception of actually winning the competition.
“The way the crowd and the people of Exeter embraced the Red Roses left the biggest impression on all the players and the staff.
“If we get that again, it would be tremendous.”
? FIXTURES CONFIRMED
England, Italy and France comprised the Women’s Six Nations’ top three teams earlier this year, with Middleton’s team clinching the Grand Slam.
The Red Roses toppled France 41-26 in Doncaster, before going on to see off Italy 55-0 at the Chiefs’ home ground.
And this autumn’s schedule will give England the chance to both prepare for their title defence as well as showcasing women’s rugby to new corners of the country.
Nicky Ponsford, RFU Head of Women’s Performance, said: “Matches against two of our Six Nations opponents who we travel to play in 2020 will give a good indication of where we are as a group building on what we learnt in the summer.
“We’re delighted to be heading to Bedford and know the importance of taking the Red Roses to new audiences.
“Equally, Sandy Park is a first-class venue and we are really excited to work with Exeter Chiefs once again after the great experience both the players and fans had there last year.”
England’s last outing against France ended in a thrilling 20-18 victory for the Red Roses in July’s Super Series, with Emily Scarratt’s late penalty breaking French hearts.
And while Italy’s last game against England was that defeat at Sandy Park, the Italians will be buoyed by their strong Six Nations showing.
“France and England have been traditionally strong for a long time but Italy have progressed over the last few seasons,” Middleton added.
“They’re flamboyant, unpredictable and have lots of facets to their game and it’s always a challenge to play against them.”
Scene set for super-charged Rugby World Cup as new dates in 2022 confirmed
- Matches will take place between 8 October–12 November, 2022 in Auckland and Whangārei
- RWC 2021 tournament window increases from 35 to 43 days (including 5 days ahead of first match)
- Match schedule prioritises player welfare with five-day minimum rest days
- Revamped format with all fixtures to be played on weekends with triple-header matches scheduled per day
- New Rugby World Cup 2021 brandmark unveiled, including bespoke te reo Māori version for tournament promotion in New Zealand
Rugby World Cup 2021 will feature increased rest periods for all teams following World Rugby’s confirmation of the revised tournament dates which will now see New Zealand host the tournament between 8 October-12 November, 2022.
With the ambition of super-charging the schedule for players, fans and the host nation, the tournament window, including preparation ahead of the first match, will be extended from 35 to 43 days resulting in all teams having a minimum of five rest days between matches. This aligns with the approach recently approved for the men’s competition.
The extension of the tournament window, also allows for a revamped tournament format that will see all matches take place on Saturdays and Sundays, with no overlap, meaning fans will not miss a moment of the first women’s edition of a Rugby World Cup to be hosted in the southern hemisphere.
With the tournament starting later in the year, players and fans will benefit from warmer weather and longer daylight hours. The pool phase will be played on the weekends of 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23 October, 2022 at Eden Park, Northlands Events Centre in Whangārei and Waitakere Stadium.
The quarter-finals will take place on 29-30 October followed by semi-finals on Saturday, 5 November. The bronze final and RWC 2021 final will be played on Saturday, 12 November, with Eden Park set to create history by becoming the first stadium to host both the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup finals.
A detailed match schedule and broadcast timings will be announced at a later date.
In addition to the revised tournament dates, World Rugby has also unveiled new tournament brandmarks retaining reference to 2021, the year the tournament was originally intended to take place, while conveying to fans and audiences that the tournament will now be played in 2022. A bespoke te reo Māori version of the new brandmark has also been designed for tournament promotion in New Zealand. This reflects the importance of te reo as an official language of Aotearoa, New Zealand and to signify the desire to celebrate the unique Māori culture for all those connected with the tournament.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are fully committed to accelerating the women’s game at all levels and while the postponement was disappointing for everyone, it has provided the unique opportunity to review every aspect of the event to ensure it is the best it can be for the players, fans around the world and the wonderful and enthusiastic New Zealanders.
“Longer rest periods between matches for all teams is further commitment to delivering comprehensive player welfare standards at RWC 2021.
“I would like to thank all stakeholders for their support and open-minded approach to this process and we can now look forward to a truly spectacular Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022.”
International Rugby Players appointee to the RWC Board, Melodie Robinson, said: “While it’s disappointing that the 2021 tournament had to be postponed, the positive is that we’ve been able to ensure the 2022 event and subsequent Rugby World Cups will have a minimum five-day turnaround for players.
“Just like the men’s tournament, this will hopefully help to level the playing field for all sides and see an increase in competitive matches.”
Rugby World Cup 2021 Tournament Director Michelle Hooper said: “We are delighted that together with World Rugby we have been able to further super-charge the women’s game here in New Zealand with the confirmation of the new dates in 2022 and the amendments to the tournament format. We are excited to be hosting Rugby World Cup here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
“The momentum for women’s sport is continuously building and we look forward to demonstrating this to the world through the unstoppable energy that will be on display during Rugby World Cup in 2022. We can’t wait to welcome the world’s best women’s rugby players to our shores and share the Manaakitanga so intrinsically linked to our people and our place and rugby in Aotearoa, New Zealand with them and their fans.”
In a commitment to delivering an outstanding Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, earlier this year World Rugby announced a £2 million funding package to support a Rugby World Cup 2021 high performance preparation and competition programme for qualified teams and teams still competing in the qualification process.
The programme will focus on providing teams with additional monetary support to deliver additional team training camps and coordinating international competition to give them the greatest opportunity to be at their best in New Zealand next year. Further details will be announced at a later stage.
Ireland Women make changes
Griggs has made three changes to his starting XV for the visit of Italy to Dublin, as Ireland bid to finish the 2021 Championship campaign in third position.
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Stacey Flood and Brittany Hogan are all in line for their first Test starts, while uncapped Railway Union flanker Grace Moore could make her Ireland debut off the bench. Born in London, Moore’s potential as an athletic and dynamic back row forward was identified through the IQ Rugby Programme and from there, the 24-year-old’s talent has been developed and honed by Anthony Eddy and the Ireland Women’s Sevens Programme.
Murphy Crowe, who came off the bench to make her debut against Italy last weekend, is promoted to the right wing, with Eimear Considine continuing at full-back and Beibhinn Parsons on the left wing.
Sene Naoupu and Eve Higgins are retained in the Ireland midfield, while Flood (pictured below) comes in at out-half for her third cap and first start having impressed off the bench in the games against Wales and France. The Ireland Sevens international partners Kathryn Dane in the half-back department.
Hogan’s inclusion in the back row is the only change Griggs has made to his pack, with the experienced front row of Lindsay Peat, Clidohna Moloney and Linda Djougang packing down together again, and Aoife McDermott and Nichola Fryday retained in the second row.
Hogan comes in at openside flanker, with Dorothy Wall continuing at blindside and captain Ciara Griffin once again leading from the back of the scrum.
On the bench, Neve Jones and Leah Lyons are included to provide front row cover alongside Laura Feely, with the uncapped Moore and Hannah O’Connor also named among the replacements. Backs Emily Lane, Hannah Tyrell and Enya Breen complete the Match Day 23.
Commenting on his selection, Head Coach Griggs said: “This week our focus has been on us and the quality of performance we know we can deliver. We learned some valuable lessons last weekend and we now have the opportunity to rectify some of the areas that we need to show more accuracy, and we want to finish this competition strongly which we are extremely excited about.”
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v Italy Women, 2021 Women’s Six Nations Championship 3rd/4th Place Play-Off, Energia Park, Saturday, April 24, kick-off 12pm)
15. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster)(17 caps)
14. Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)(1)
13. Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster)(2)
12. Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)(40)
11. Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Blackrock College/Connacht)(10)
10. Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)(2)
9. Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster)(12)
1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster)(33)
2. Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby)(25)
3. Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster)(11)
4. Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster)(15)
5. Nichola Fryday (Blackrock College/Connacht)(17)
6. Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/ Munster)(6)
7. Brittany Hogan (DCU/Old Belvedere/Ulster)(3)
8. Ciara Griffin (Captain)(UL Bohemian/Munster)(35)
16. Neve Jones (Malone/Ulster)(2)
17. Laura Feely (Blackrock College/Connacht)(18)
18. Leah Lyons (Harlequins/IQ Rugby)(25)
19. Grace Moore (Railway Union/IQ Rugby)*
20. Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster)(4)
21. Emily Lane (Blackrock College/Munster)(2)
22. Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)(19)
23. Enya Breen (UL Bohemian/Munster)(5)
* Denotes uncapped player
Ireland Team Named To Face Wales In Women’s Six Nations
Head Coach Adam Griggs has named his Ireland Match Day 23 to face Wales in Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations game in Cardiff, with Sevens international Eve Higgins set for her XVs debut in the centre and uncapped backs Emily Lane and Stacey Flood included on the replacements bench.
Ireland will be captained by Ciara Griffin in the opening game of their 2021 Championship campaign at Cardiff Arms Park (Kick-off 5pm, live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player), with Griggs’ starting XV showing three changes to the side that beat Italy at Energia Park last October.
Higgins, who has starred for Ireland on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in recent seasons, has impressed during Ireland’s preparations for the Six Nations and earns her debut cap in midfield alongside the experienced Sene Naoupu.
Sevens internationals Lane and Flood are included on the bench for their first taste of Championship action.
Eimear Considine returns to the full-back jersey as one of the three changes in personnel from the victory over Italy last time out, with Lauren Delany switching to the right wing and Beibhinn Parsons lining out on the left.
21-year-old Higgins, capped 20 times for Ireland Sevens, partners Naoupu in midfield, while the half-back pairing of Hannah Tyrrell and Kathryn Dane are retained having impressed against the Azzurri.
There is an unchanged front row named by Griggs as Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney and Linda Djougang once again pack down together, with the fit-again Aoife McDermott returning to the second row alongside Nichola Fryday.
Griffin leads the side from number eight, with Dorothy Wall set for her fifth cap at blindside flanker and Claire Molloy named at openside.
Uncapped duo Lane and Flood provide the half-back cover on the replacements bench, where they are joined by forwards Neve Jones, Katie O’Dwyer, Laura Feely, Brittany Hogan and Hannah O’Connor, with Enya Breen providing the additional backline cover.
Commenting on his selection, Head Coach Griggs says the competition for places within the squad has intensified in recent weeks as the squad stepped up their preparations at the IRFU High Performance Centre.
“We are extremely confident in the squad we have selected,” he said. “We have had a great deal of time to prepare together and this group of players have earned the responsibility to bring the high standards we have set ourselves throughout training into this first game.
“Wales at home will bring a strong challenge and we need to make sure we start the game well and build a platform that allows us to play our game and start this competition off with a win.”
Ireland’s opening game of the 2021 Women’s Six Nations is live on RTÉ and the RTÉ Player in the Republic of Ireland, while there is coverage on the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport Website for supporters in the UK.
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v Wales Women, 2021 Women’s Six Nations Championship Round 2, Cardiff Arms Park, Saturday, April 10, kick-off 5pm)
15. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster)(15 caps)
14. Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby)(12)
13. Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster)*
12. Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/ Leinster)(38)
11. Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Blackrock College/Connacht)(8)
10. Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)(17)
9. Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster)(10)
1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster)(31)
2. Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby)(23)
3. Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster)(9)
4. Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster)(13)
5. Nichola Fryday (Blackrock College/Connacht)(15)
6. Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/ Munster)(4)
7. Claire Molloy (Wasps/IQ Rugby)(70)
8. Ciara Griffin (Captain)(UL Bohemian/Munster)(33)
16. Neve Jones (Malone/Ulster)(1)
17. Katie O’Dwyer (Railway Union/Leinster)(1)
18. Laura Feely (Blackrock College/Connacht)(16)
19. Brittany Hogan (DCU/Old Belvedere/Ulster)(1)
20. Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster)(2)
21. Emily Lane (Blackrock College/Munster)*
22. Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)*
23. Enya Breen (UL Bohemian/Munster)(4).
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