Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool C: Ireland V France

WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP POOL C

IRELAND 5

FRANCE 21

By Daire Walsh

A devastating opening period performance from France was the major difference at the UCD Bowl on Thursday night, as Ireland’s Pool C campaign in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup ended in disappointment.

It is expected that Ireland will now renew acquaintances with Australia in a fifth-eight place play-off in Belfast on Tuesday, whereas France will join New Zealand, England and the USA in the last-four.

After making seven changes to his team for the game against Japan four days ago, Ireland coach Tom Tierney once again made significant alterations to his starting line-up for a crunch encounter with familiar foes.

Hannah Tyrrell’s relocation to full-back paved the way for Eimear Considine to indirectly replace Mairead Coyne, while the fit-again Jenny Murphy took over from Katie Fitzhenry – and renewed her centre partnership with Sene Naoupu.

However, despite getting on the scoresheet in the opening day success over Australia, Larissa Muldoon had to be content with a spot on the bench on this occasion. Her scrum-half role was taken by Nicole Cronin, who impressed on her international debut against the Japanese.

Former Dublin ladies footballer Lindsay Peat was retained in the front-row, and she was joined this time by Leah Lyons and Ailis Egan. The latter was one of seven Old Belvedere players in the Irish side, and this included the second-row pairing of Sophie Spence and Marie Louise Reilly.

Spence’s presence in the team allowed Paula Fitzpatrick to move back to the No 8 position that she filled during this year’s Six Nations, and with Ciara Griffin and skipper Claire Molloy on the blindside and openside respectively, it was clear that Ireland were preparing for a physical battle.

In earlier kick-offs, New Zealand and England had comfortably booked their places in the semi-finals of the tournament. Indeed, after Canada were resigned to a spot in the 5-8 place play-offs, it became a battle between the USA (who came away with a losing bonus point from their defeat to England), France and Ireland for the final two places in the penultimate round.

Though they had recorded back-to-back victories over Australia and Japan heading into this tie, the general consensus was that massive improvements were needed if Ireland were to repeat their Six Nations success against France in the nearby Donnybrook Stadium.

They held on to possession during the early moments of the action, but once France developed some attacking momentum, they showcased all the qualities that helped them to score 120 points in their opening two games of the tournament.

Full-back Montserrat Amedee was short of the target from an early 35-metre penalty, but even though Ireland out-half Nora Stapleton kicked the ball away to safety, Samuel Cherouk’s charges ultimately broke the deadlock in the seventh-minute.

After forcing Ireland on the back-foot, France moved the ball towards the right-hand side, where flanker Romane Menager was on hand to cross over the whitewash. This was an ideal start for France in front of a largely partisan crowd, and with Amedee making no mistake from the subsequent conversion, they had created a seven-point gap over their opponents.

This was a major set-back for the host nation, who were hoping to avoid a repeat of their lacklustre first-half display in the Japanese game. However, a powerful French side never allowed them to settle, and following excellent approach work by lock Lenaig Corson and Carolin Drouin, outside centre Caroline Ladagnous dotted down in spectacular fashion.

Winger Shannon Izar stepped up to the kicking tee on this occasion, and she enhanced her side’s advantage with a confident strike from a tricky angle.

It was already beginning to look worryingly ominous for Ireland, and although they were applying greater pressure on the French defence (Murphy in particular brought ferocious intensity to her game), they were facing into a 21-point deficit by the half-hour mark.

A lung-bursting charge for the line by prop Julie Duval was halted just in time by the retreating Irish rearguard, but she passed back for Ladagnous to comfortably secure her second converted try of the half.

Even though there was a lot of rugby still to play, France already had a bonus point in their sights. A crunching tackle from Murphy denied Chloe Pelle three minutes before the break, but with a 0-21 scoreline to contend with at the start of the second half, it was difficult to see how Ireland could turn the tables on their Les Bleus counterparts.

Cliodhna Moloney was introduced for Lyons in the front-row, and this did offer the Irish pack with some fresh impetus. The 44th-minute sin-binning of France’s Lenaig Corson also gave Ireland a temporary numerical supremacy, and they certainly were showing greater intent after the restart.

With France aiming to hold onto their already considerable cushion, Ireland were also seeing a lot more of the ball, and Murphy continued to carried forward effectively. Yet, try as they might, they were struggling to break down France’s disciplined defensive set-up.

They looked set to open their account on the hour mark, but in spite of the best efforts from Egan and Alison Miller (who spotted small gaps inside the French cover), they were eventually held up just shy of the line.

The Green Army persisted with their challenge as the half wore on, and despite losing both Stapleton and Murphy to injuries (they were replaced by Katie Fitzhenry and Louise Galvin respectively), they were keeping France on the back-foot for large spells.

Their momentum was too often halted by errors and turnovers, however, and this meant that France were never in danger of losing their grip on the proceedings. As the final whistle approached, heavy rainfall descended upon the Belfield venue, which added further gloom to the demise of Ireland’s World Cup aspirations.

Perseverance finally paid for Ireland on the stroke of full-time with a Moloney try at the end of a powerful maul, and while Tyrrell was wide of the mark from the resulting conversion, Ireland did at least have something to show for their efforts.

Scorers for Ireland: Cliodhna Moloney try.

Scorers for France: Caroline Ladagnous 2 tries, Romane Menager try, Montserrat Amedee 2 cons, Shannon Izar con.

IRELAND: Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster); Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht) (capt), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster).

Replacements: Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Ulster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster).

FRANCE: Montserrat Amédée (Montpellier RC/FFR); Chloé Pelle (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois/FFR), Caroline Ladagnous (AC Bobigny 93/FFR), Elodie Poublan (Montpellier RC), Shannon Izar (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois/FFR); Caroline Drouin (Stade Rennais), Yanna Rivoalen (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois); Annaëlle Deshayes (Ovalie Caennaise), Gaëlle Mignot (Montpellier RC) (capt), Julie Duval (Ovalie Caennaise), Lénaig Corson (Stade Rennais/FFR), Audrey Forlani (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Marjorie Mayans (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin/FFR), Romane Ménager (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois), Safi N’Diaye (Montpellier RC).

Replacements: Caroline Thomas (ASM Romagnat), Lise Arricastre (Lons Rugby Féminin Béarn Pyrénées), Patricia Carricaburu (Lons Rugby Féminin Béarn Pyrénées), Céline Ferer (AS Bayonne), Julie Annery (AC Bobigny 93), Jade Le Pesq (Stade Rennais/FFR), Carla Neisen (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Camille Grassineau (Stade Français/FFR).

Referee: Graham Cooper (Australia).

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Rugby Column Number 87: The Kildare Nationalist – August 15 2017

RUGBY

Ireland unconvincing in early World Cup victories

By Daire Walsh

IT’S a case of a lot done, more to do for Ireland in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, after they secured narrow victories over Australia and Japan in Pool C of the tournament in the past week.

The expectations surrounding this Irish team are quite high, and they entered their competition opener against Australia at the UCD Bowl on Wednesday evening as firm favourites. Though original captain Niamh Briggs was ruled out of the squad because of injury, it was a vastly experienced Ireland squad that took to the Belfield pitch for a meeting with the Wallaroos.

Kilcullen’s Jenny Murphy was named alongside Sene Naoupu in the Irish midfield, and she delivered an all-action display during the opening period of a tightly-contested affair. Murphy was inches short of the Australian line with a powerful surge, but when the play was switched towards the right of the post, scrum-half Larissa Muldoon was on hand to cross over.

This was followed by a conversion from Nora Stapleton, before Australia responded with a well-worked five-pointer by Mahalia Murphy. A missed bonus kick from Samantha Treherne meant that Ireland held onto a slender 7-5 lead at the interval, but the southern hemisphere outfit moved into the ascendancy with a Shannon Parry try after the restart.

This threw down the gauntlet to Ireland, but with Ciara Griffin and Sophie Spence making considerable impacts from the bench, they regained control of the tie. They claimed much-needed touchdowns in the final-quarter, and even though Hilisha Samoa’s try set up a tense finale, Ireland ultimately claimed a 19-17 triumph.

With so much pressure on the squad, it was vital for Ireland to get off to a winning start, and it was anticipated that they would also overcome the challenge of Japan in the same venue on Sunday.

The Japanese had suffered a heavy defeat to France four days earlier, but thanks to a penalty try and a seven-point salvo from full-back Mayu Shimizu, they brought a shock 14-0 cushion into the break.

Ireland coach Tom Tierney had made a total of seven changes to his starting line-up for this game (Murphy was rested after picking up a knock against Australia), but by the start of the second period, Ailis Egan, Leah Lyons, Ruth O’Reilly and Paula Fitzpatrick had all been introduced as replacements.

This certainly made the hosts a more formidable proposition, and despite losing Katie Fitzhenry to the sin-bin, Alison Miller opened her side’s account with a clinical try that was converted by Stapleton.

Slowly but surely, Ireland were starting to get on top of their opponents, and Fitzpatrick finished off a superb maul in the 63rd-minute. Another Stapleton bonus effort was supplemented by a penalty from the Donegal native, as the Green Army hit the front for the very first time.

A second Fitzpatrick try helped Ireland to claim a hard-earned 24-14 win, but big improvements will be needed ahead of their final pool game with France on Thursday.

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Post-Match Reaction: SSE Airtricity League U19 Southern Elite Division – The Evening Echo – August 15 2017

Cotter says City not getting rub of green

SOCCER

Daire Walsh

FOLLOWING his side’s 4-0 defeat to Bray Wanderers last Saturday afternoon in the U19 Southern Elite Division, Cork City coach Cormac Cotter felt the final scoreline wasn’t a true reflection on the game.

City had a number of opportunities to break the deadlock before Luke Rossiter’s 51st-minute opener for Bray, but following some sloppy defending, the Leesiders allowed the hosts to finish with a flourish.

“4-0 isn’t a fair reflection of the game by any means. Unfortunately, you had a penalty, two or three great chances in the first half.

“We’re just in that position at the moment that we just can’t seem to score goals, we just can’t get that break,” Cotter remarked.

“Obviously we’re in a fragile position then mentally when the first goal went in, a deflection from nothing. You’re a goal down, and unfortunately we’re in that position at the moment, fellas are finding it difficult.

“Heads went down a bit, and unfortunately then we conceded three more sloppy goals.”

It could have been an entirely different game if City midfielder Ross Welch had converted a sixth-minute penalty, though, and Cotter admitted that luck is deserting them in front of the opposition goal at the moment.

“By far we were the better team in the first-half, should have been two or three up at least at half-time. Then a shot deflected and you’re a goal down.

Hit crossbar

“We kind of struggled from there, and even at that, we still hit the crossbar, hit the post and two cleared off the line.

“We can’t seem to buy a goal at the moment, unfortunately.”

With four losses on the bounce in the league since their July 9 win over Wexford FC, it has been a frustrating few weeks for the City squad. However, Cotter is confident that they can get back to their best very soon, and also added that there are players who will return to the fold in the near future.

“One of these days it will just click for us, and I’ve no doubt we’re capable of scoring three or four past another team on any day really.

“At the moment, we’re just finding it hard to just put the ball in the net. If we can just do that, I think it will definitely change things for us.

“We’ve another one or two to come back.

“What’s there at the moment, we don’t have a problem with that quality.

“It’s just unfortunate at the moment, they just can’t seem to get that rub of the green that you need in games at times,” Cotter added.

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SSE Airtricity League U19 Southern Elite Division: Bray Wanderers V Cork City – The Evening Echo – August 14 2017

City U19s beaten 4-0 by Bray Wanderers

BRAY WANDERERS U19…………………………..4

CORK CITY U19……………………………………..0

SOCCER

Daire Walsh

AT the Academy Wayside on on Saturday afternoon, Cork City U19s lost heavily defeat to Bray Wanderers in the SSE Airtricity League Southern Elite Division.

Cork were hoping for their first league win since July 9, and had the perfect opportunity to break the deadlock six minutes into the contest.

Referee, Robert Dowling, pointed to the spot, after Cian Murphy was dragged down in the box by Calvin Rodgers. But Ross Welch’s penalty (as well as his effort from the rebound) was saved by Bray goalkeeper, Malachy Doyle.

Cork then breathed a sigh of relief when Seagulls winger, Dion Agbonze, fired over from close-range in the 20th minute.

Denzil Fernandes and Cian Bargary also forced Doyle into action as the half developed, but Cork couldn’t break the deadlock.

A right-footed strike by Fernandes was turned behind by Doyle, three minutes into the second period, but Bray ultimately broke the deadlock.

Luke Rossiter’s 51st-minute strike took a massive deflection en route to goal, and drifted beyond the reach of unfortunate Cork goalkeeper, Ian Giltinan.

This was a hammer blow for City, and though they attempted to work their way back into the reckoning, they were facing into a two-goal deficit with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Jamie Ahearne’s 25-yard free-kick was blocked by Cork’s defensive wall, but when the ball dropped back at his feet, he found the top right-hand corner of the net with a superb curling finish.

The visitors were now left with a mountain to climb, and Joe Heaney and Rory Doyle were both introduced from the bench to add fresh impetus to their attack.

However, Bray placed the outcome beyond doubt, when Rossiter turned home an Agbonze delivery, and a fourth goal arrived through Ahearne, in the 84th-minute.

Murphy and Fernandes both hit the woodwork in the closing stages, as Cork gallantly fought for a consolation goal, but with Waterford United and Limerick set to meet this evening, they remain in the top-four for the time being.

BRAY WANDERERS: Malachy Doyle; Shane Heffernan, Calvin Rodgers, Jack Whelan, Dylan O’Connor; Luke Rossiter, Gavin Howard (Stephen Morley 84); Luke Clucas (David Gilskenan 32), Jamie Ahearne, Dion Agbonze; Cormac Kelly.

CORK CITY: Ian Giltinan; Dylan Scott, Adam O’Sullivan, Thomas O’Donovan, Ronan Hurley; Brian Mulcahy (Joe Heaney 72); Denzil Fernandes, Pierce Philips, Ross Welch (Rory Doyle 72), Cian Bargary; Cian Murphy.

Referee: Robert Dowling.

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Post-Match Reaction: Women’s Rugby World Cup – Ireland V Japan – Ireland Back Hannah Tyrrell – Irishrugby.ie – August 14 2017

Tyrrell: We Got The Job Done But There’s A Lot To Work On

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Post-Match Reaction: Women’s Rugby World Cup – Ireland V Japan – Ireland Coach Tom Tierney – August 14 2017

Tierney ‘Mightily Relieved’ As Ireland Set Up Pool Decider With France

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Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup: Bluebell United V Sheriff YC – The Irish Daily Mail – August 14 2017

IRISH DAILY MAIL FAI CUP FIRST ROUND

BLUEBELL UNITED 3

SHERIFF YC 0

By Daire Walsh

Gary Seery and Dean Ebbe were on target at Red Cow yesterday afternoon as Bluebell United defeated Dublin rivals Sheriff YC on a 3-0 scoreline.

Bluebell included former Republic of Ireland international Keith Fahey in their starting line-up after he was recently coaxed out of retirement by manager Andy Noonan. Seery netted twice in the opening period while Ebbe added to the tally from the penalty spot on the restart.

BLUEBELL UNITED: McNulty; Russell, Laurence, Walsh, Keeler; Quinn; Seery, Fahey (Cooney 61), Griffith (Scully 61), Ebbe (Coughlin 64); Stritch.

SHERIFF YC: Lynch; Tibre (Fetherston 46), O’Neill, McDermott, Hand; Waldren, Stephen Murphy; Sean Murphy (O’Leary 46), Dunne, Higgins; Rock.

REFEREE: D Troy (Dublin).

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Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup: Bangor Celtic V Everton AFC – The Irish Mail On Sunday – August 13 2017

BANGOR CELTIC 3

EVERTON AFC 2

AN 86th-minute goal from sub Michael Fox proved decisive at the Iveagh Grounds, as Bangor Celtic completed a remarkable comeback against Everton AFC.

Everton skipper Jason Sexton had broken the deadlock on 19 minutes, and midfielder Lawrence Fitzpatrick made it 2-0 five minutes later.

The Cork men still led with nine minutes left but a powerful finish by Caleb Murray offered the Crumlin outfit a lifeline.

Bangor equalised through Laurence Dunne on 85 minutes, and after Fox’s goal from the next attack, a deflated Everton lost Sexton to a red card in stoppage-time.

BANGOR CELTIC: Conlon; Kelly, Fadden, Murray, Ndiaye (Burke 66); Synnott, Traynor, Dunne, Coleman; Fitzgibbon (Fox 48), Byrne.

EVERTON AFC: Sherlock; Long, Sweeney, Sexton, McGrath (Hawkins 88); Daly (Caulfield 70), O’Sullivan, Fitzpatrick, O’Leary, O’Brien; Murphy (Kadima 53).

REFEREE: E Reilly (Dublin).

– DAIRE WALSH

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Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool C: Ireland V Japan

WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP POOL C

IRELAND 24

JAPAN 14

A brace of second-half tries from Paula Fitzpatrick were crucial at the UCD Bowl on Sunday evening, when Ireland survived a strong challenge from Japan in Pool C of the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

A shock was on the cards when the Japanese developed a 14-0 half-time cushion, but with Fitzpatrick and Nora Stapleton leading by example, Ireland turned things around in the second-half.

With a crunch encounter against France taking place next Thursday, it was no surprise that Ireland coach Tom Tierney opted to make a number of alterations to his starting line-up. Mairead Coyne (who featured prominently during the Six Nations) indirectly replaced Eimear Considine in the back-three.

The Connacht star took over from Hannah Tyrrell at full-back, with the latter switching to her more familiar position on the right-wing. After deputising for her in the second-half of the win over Australia, Katie Fitzhenry stepped in for Jenny Murphy at outside centre, while Nicole Cronin was making her international debut at the expense of regular scrum-half Larissa Muldoon.

Ciara Cooney and Sophie Spence formed an all-new second-row partnership, and in a re-shuffled back-row, Ciara Griffin (who joined Spence in scoring a second-half try against Australia) was chosen ahead of Heather O’Brien.

Ailis Egan (whose placed in the front-row went to Ciara O’Connor), Fitzpatrick and Muldoon provided a great deal of leadership on the Irish replacements bench, and after receiving an 11th hour call-up following the withdrawal of original captain Niamh Briggs, Louise Galvin was included in an Ireland 15s matchday squad for the very first time.

Ireland had already faced Japan in two trials game back in June, and they were hoping that their strong understanding of Goshi Arimizu’s side would help them to claim their second victory in this year’s tournament.

They certainly made a bright start to the action, with Alison Miller, Coyne and Stapleton all making their presence felt in the Japanese half. However, the Japan defence (spearheaded by skipper Seina Saito) were forcing a number of errors from the host nation, and this helped to lift some of the early pressure off their shoulders.

A massive 12th-minute break by Miller brought Ireland back into enemy territory, but following a knock-on just outside the opposition ’22’, their attacking momentum was halted once more. Ireland dominated possession for much of the first-quarter, but as the half wore on, Japan’s confidence started to grow.

They were eager to atone for their heavy defeat at the hands of France (72-14) four days earlier, and a powerful surge by winger Eriko Hirano forced Ireland on the back-foot for the first time. Her run was halted by a high tackle from Coyne – who was fortunate to escape with just a caution – but this was the catalyst for an outstanding purple patch from the Japanese.

An overhit Mayu Shimizu pass towards centre Iroha Nagata prevented them from breaking the deadlock, but with 27 minutes gone on the clock, relentless pressure from the Japanese pack forced their Irish counterparts into the concession of a penalty try.

With the current rules in the women’s game meaning that conversions are automatically awarded for penalty tries, Japan suddenly found themselves seven points to the good. This should have been a major wake-up call for Ireland, and before the play had resumed, Egan entered the fray instead of O’Connor.

However, Ireland were struggling to regain their composure, and last-gasp defending (as well as the intervention of the TMO) stopped them from conceding a second try in the 36th-minute. Yet, this was only a temporary respite for the hosts, as Shimizu drove over the whitewash from the final attack of the opening half. The full-back was on hand to add the bonuses to her own score, and this meant that Japan brought a surprise 14-point lead into the break.

This presented Ireland with a significant challenge upon the resumption, and when Fitzhenry was sin-binned just two minutes into the second-half, it was beginning to look quite grim for the Green Army and their loyal supporters.

They coped well with this numerical disadvantage, though, and after threatening to break through with a series of drives towards the Japanese line, Miller finally touched down on 46 minutes. Stapleton then split the posts from the resulting conversion, and this put Ireland right back in the mix.

In addition to Egan, Leah Lyons, Ruth O’Reilly and Fitzpatrick were all introduced as half-time substitutes, and they were subsequently joined on the field by Galvin and Jeamie Deacon just after Miller’s try.

Ireland had substantially increased the urgency in their play, and even when Japan were able to gain a foothold close to their posts in the third-quarter, they were turned over by committed tackling from their European counterparts.

There was a sense that persistence would eventually pay off for Ireland, and they finally restored parity 16 minutes from the end of normal time. A powerful maul on the right-flank was finished off by Fitzpatrick, and though her bonus kick was from a tricky angle, Stapleton registered her second successful conversion of the contest.

In the absence of Briggs, Stapleton’s accuracy from the kicking tee was under the microscope, and she would move Ireland into the ascendancy seven minutes from the end of a compelling fixture. Ireland seemed to have enough of the ball to work a third try, but after they opted for a kick at goal, Stapleton edged Ireland in front for the very first time.

Now that Japan were finding it difficult to recover any of their form from the end of the opening half, Ireland were expected to see out the closing moments of the tie.

Indeed, on the stroke of 80 minutes, Fitzpatrick dotted down for her second try of the game. With the aid of the woodwork, Stapleton brought her personal tally up to nine points, but although there was delight at the final whistle, Ireland will be seeking a much-improved performance against France next Thursday.

Scorers for Ireland: Paula Fitzpatrick 2 tries, Nora Stapleton pen, 3 cons, Alison Miller try.

Scorers for Japan: Penalty Try, Mayu Shimizu try, con.

IRELAND: Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht); Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht) (capt).

Replacements: Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians/Munster), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Ulster), Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock/Leinster), Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster).

JAPAN: Mayu Shimizu (Nippon Sport Science Univ); Eriko Hirano (Yokohama TKM), Iroha Nagata (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Riho Kurogi (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Honoka Tsutsumi (Nippon Sport Science Univ); Minori Yamamoto (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Moe Tsukui (The Second HS, Tokyo University of Agriculture); Makoto Ebuchi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ/Tokyo Phoenix RC), Seina Saito (Pearls) (capt), Saki Minami (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Aoi Mimura (Yokohama TKM), Ayano Sakurai (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Yuki Sue (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Sayaka Suzuki (RKU Rugby Ryugasaki Grace), Maki Takano (Nippon Sport Science Univ).

Replacements: Misaki Suzuki (Tokyo Phoenix RC), Mizuho Kataoka (Yokohama TKM), Maiko Fujimoto (Yokohama TKM), Aya Nakajima (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Yui Shiozaki (Tokyo Phoenix RC), Yumeno Noda (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Ayaka Suzuki (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), AI Tasaka (Arukas Queen Kumagaya).

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)

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Women’s Rugby World Cup Preview: The Kildare Nationalist – August 8 2017

RUGBY

WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP 2017 PREVIEW

By Daire Walsh

THE wait is almost over for the Ireland women’s rugby team, as they prepare to head into battle in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup on their home turf.

Dublin’s UCD will play host to the pool stages of the tournament over the course of the next nine days, before Queen’s University and Kingspan Stadium in Belfast take over for the knockout rounds at the end of August.

Regardless of where Ireland finish in the group, they will play at least one fixture in Ulster (there will be ranking games in addition to the eagerly-anticipated semi-finals), but their immediate focus will be on their meetings with Australia, Japan and France in Pool C.

Tom Tierney’s side will kick off their campaign against the Australians tomorrow evening (7pm), and they will be hoping to claim their first-ever victory over the southern hemisphere outfit at 15s level. They lost out to Australia in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, but any showdowns between the two sides have been restricted to the sevens grade in recent years.

A number of the Wallaroos squad have played sevens rugby for their country, and have come face-to-face with Ireland in recent tournaments.

Ireland winger Hannah Tyrrell has been a prominent member of the Ireland Sevens programme in recent seasons, and while she sees Australia as tough opponents in the opening game, she believes they need to focus primarily on their own systems of play.

“There’s a couple of them that are crossing over from 7s into 15s. The Australia game will be a tough one for us, but we’re just really focusing on ourselves as a team at the minute, and getting our systems and defensive systems on track, and working on little things like that. Hopefully things go the way we need it to on the day, and we start the tournament off well,” Tyrrell remarked recently.

Since making her debut during the 2015 Six Nations, Tyrrell (a former Dublin ladies footballer) has become a vital member of the Irish back-three, and with skipper and first-choice full-back Niamh Briggs ruled out of the tournament through injury, her role in the team will become even more significant.

She has been joined in the 28-strong selection by six of her Old Belvedere club-mates – including Kilcullen’s Jenny Murphy, who played in the historic triumph against New Zealand three years ago.

Alison Miller also joined up with the south Dublin club at the beginning of last season, and she admitted that it was an advantage to have so many of her international compatriots alongside her in the All-Ireland League.

“Yeah, I’m playing with Old Belvedere. The first year with Old Belvedere. To actually play with some of the girls that you play with on the Irish team, and to get to play with them, get used to each other, actually is brilliant,” Miller explains.

“To play a higher standard of rugby. It’s great to play with the likes of Nora Stapleton, Maz Reilly, Ailis Egan, Jenny Murphy, Sophie Spence. To play with those people, and to train with those people, is hugely beneficial.”

The outcome of the Australian game could make or break Ireland’s World Cup dream, but regardless of the result, they will need to re-group for an encounter with Japan just four days later. Their most recent official meeting with the Oriental outfit was a 55-0 win at Donnybrook in 2004, although the Irish did recently register a brace of hard-earned successes over Japan in trial games at UCD.

Following this match, Ireland will complete their pool with a mouthwatering contest against France on Thursday week (August 17). Ireland have recorded just three wins from 25 outings with the French, but did come out on top of their clash in this year’s Six Nations.

They also met in the 2014 World Cup, when Ireland were on the receiving end of an 18-25 reversal in a third/fourth place play-off in the final week of the tournament.

Because she was on sevens duty, Tyrrell didn’t feature in this year’s 15-10 success over France at Donnybrook Stadium, but is acutely aware that their opponents will be seeking revenge for that defeat in February.

“We’re trying not to look too far ahead in the pool games, and trying to focus on the first game, and then deal with the rest as they come. We know France are going to be a tough test. Yes, we beat them in the Six Nations this year, but we know they’re going to come back even stronger, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic game with a huge physicality involved. Hopefully we come out on the right side of it on the day,” Tyrrell added.

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