Ireland head coach Adam Griggs is without some key players due to injury and 7’s duty. Lindsay Peat and Nicole Cronin are out with shoulder/neck and an achilles injuries respectively.
While Louise Galvin, Hannah Tyrell, Beibhinn Parsons and Eve Higgins are on international 7’s duty.
Ireland start with Laura Feely, last year’s championship newcomer, Leah Lyons, and Fiona Reidy in the front row. With Aoife McDermott and Nichola Fryday pairing in the second-row for their second successive test starts together.
There is a 6 Nations debut for Juliet Short at No 6, and she is partnered by Claire Molloy, and captain Ciara Griffin in the back-row.
Ailsa Hughes is at scrum-half, with Nicole Fowley coming in for her championship debut. Michelle Claffey and Leinster star Sene Naoupu are in the centre, with a back three of Megan Williams, Eimear Considine and tournament debutant Lauren Delany.
On the bench, there are three players set to make their debuts, Linda Djougang, Anne-Marie O’Hora, and Kathryn Dane. There is a welcome return for winger Ali Millar who suffered a horror ankle injury in the last year Championship. Ulster’s Claire McClaughlin who featured in last years tournament as a centre/wing continues her shift into the pack and will cover the back-row along with Anna Caplice.
Here's the Ireland team to play England in Energia Park on Friday evening.
Tickets: https://t.co/A3JASZ4jal#ShoulderToShoulder #IREvENG #Ireland pic.twitter.com/UKie9MSNzS— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 29, 2019
Griggs is looking forward to the challenge his side will face against one of the world’s best.
“There’s no bigger challenge than to open the Six Nations against England. They are second in the world for a reason and are a very good side who challenge you in every part of the game,” he said.
Adding that he believes his side have what it takes to beat lasts seasons runners-up.
“We have had good preparations leading into this Friday’s opening match of the tournament, and we’re looking for a strong performance to get the Championship started in front of what we hope will be an amazing crowd in Donnybrook,” he said.
On the opposition side, there is a huge amount of experience, lead by 108 capped captain Sarah Hunter.
Hannah Botterman, Lark Davies, and Sarah Bern are in the front-row. While Catherine O’Donnell and Poppy Cleall are in playing at four and five, with Cleall’s twin sister Bryony set to make her debut off the bench.
The back-three consists of Sarah Beckett, Marlie Packer, and captain Sarah Hunter. With Leanne Riley and Katy Daley-Mclean playing in the half-backs.
Tatyana Heard and Emily Scarrett partner each other at 12 and 13. With Kelly Smith, Jess Breach, and Sarah McKenna making up the back three.
England head coach Simon Middleton is missing a few players but is using the opportunity to test out some new talent.
“We are looking forward to getting our Six Nations campaign underway and implementing some of the things we have been working on since the Quilter Internationals,” he said.
“This first game has come a week too soon for a couple of players but this gives us an opportunity to test others, and there were some tough calls over positions. Selection has been based on recent form,” he added.
Ireland will be looking for revenge over the Red Roses for their 37-15 defeat in November, with both teams hoping to kick-start their 6 Nations with a win.
The match will be shown live on both Sky Sports and RTE 2
Ireland Womens announce XV to face Italy
Dorothy Wall will make her first start for the Ireland Women’s 15s side, having come off the bench in the all three of the competition’s earlier rounds. Joining her in the back row will be Claire Molloy, who will earn her 70th cap for her country, and captain Ciara Griffin.
Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney and Linda Djougang all start in the front row for the fourth game in succession with Nichola Fryday and Ciara Cooney behind them in the second row.
Hannah Tyrrell and Kathryn Dane form the half-back partnership with out-half Tyrell making her first start of the campaign.
Enya Breen and Sene Naoupu are the centres while Béibhinn Parsons, Lauren Delany and Eimear Considine all link up in the back three.
Griggs says the entire squad are aware that they are part of a select group of people permitted to play competitive rugby at the moment.
“We’ve spoken about it,” says the Head Coach.
No one across Irish Rugby in the women’s game is actually able to pull on a jersey and play right now and yet here we are already privileged to represent our country and be one of the only teams actually playing in these times.
It’s not lost on us and we want to make sure that we perform really well and give everyone watching something to cheer about come the final whistle.”.
There’s potential for Ireland debuts off the bench on Saturday with uncapped forwards Neve Jones, Katie O’Dwyer and Brittany Hogan all earning their place in the match day squad.
Laura Feely and Hannah O’Connor will provide the remaining cover for the pack while Ailsa Hughes, Larissa Muldoon and Katie Fitzhenry will give Coach Griggs further options in the backline. Fitzhenry along with Tyrell and Hogan have also featured for Ireland Sevens in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020.
Speaking about team selection, Griggs says: “I think the beauty of what we’ve got now is such a competitive wider squad and some of those selections weren’t as straight forward as you think. Some of those players who’ve missed out can take credit for how hard they’ve pushed these girls.”
England Women reveal autumn schedule
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.”
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.”
Leinster Rugby To Play Historic Double Header
Leinster Rugby have this morning confirmed a first ever double-header in Energia Park on the 17th August 2019 to kick start the Leinster season.
At 3.00pm Leo Cullen’s defending Guinness PRO14 champions will play their first game of the Bank of Ireland Pre-Season Schedule against Coventry, while at 5.30pm Ben Armstrong’s defending Interprovincial Women’s Champions will get the defence of their title underway against Connacht.
At the announcement this morning in Energia Park, were both Head Coaches, Leo Cullen and Ben Armstrong and Leinster Rugby players Ed Byrne and Michelle Claffey.
The Leinster Rugby men’s team finished out their 2018/19 season in dramatic fashion, in the rain in Celtic Park, with a 18-15 win against the Glasgow Warriors in the final of the Guinness PRO14, while the Leinster Rugby women’s team had a nervy end to their own campaign as a 14-14 draw with Munster was just enough to win the title in Energia Park.
August 17th, in Energia Park, will kick off both 2019/20 seasons!
Bank of Ireland Pre-Season Schedule:
17th August 2019, Leinster Rugby v Coventry, Energia Park (KO: 3.00pm)
24th August 2019, Canada v Leinster Rugby, Tim Hortons Field (KO: TBC)
w/c 9th September 2019, 3rd Fixture TBC Later This Week
Irish Rugby Women’s Interprovincial Schedule:
Images & Content from Leinster Rugby