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Ireland and Wales prepare to test Championship credentials

Ireland and Wales prepare to test Championship credentials

The opportunity to make a statement of intent ahead of the 2020 Women’s Six Nations will be up for grabs when Ireland welcome Wales for a blockbuster clash in Dublin.

With the two sides on a collision course for a Round Two meeting in next year’s Championship, both will be eager to show what they are made of at the UCD Bowl on Sunday.

Vengeance will also be firmly on the minds of Adam Griggs’ side, who were beaten 24-5 by Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in the final game of the Women’s Six Nations earlier this year.

The hosts are fresh off the back of two training weekends in Scotland and France, where they had warm-up games against their Championship rivals, and should be able to hit the ground running.

Head coach Adam Griggs has named one uncapped player in his starting XV, with talented Leinster youngster Judy Bobbett making her debut as she joins Nichola Fryday in the second row.

Fit-again hooker Cliodhna Moloney returns at hooker for her first international appearance since the 2018 Six Nations, flanked by props Laura Feely and Linda Djougang.

Elsewhere Anna Caplice, one of Ireland’s best performers during the 2019 Championship, features in the back row alongside captain Ciara Griffin and Edel McMahon.

Ireland could also give debuts to four more new faces on the bench. Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony, Katie O’Dwyer, Niamh Ni Dhroma and Hannah O’Connor are all set to gain international honours on the back of helping Leinster to retain their Interprovincial crown earlier this season.

And Griggs said: “The camps in Scotland and France were invaluable, it gave us a chance to get quality time together as a squad and feed more information in to the players about how we want to go about playing and performing this season.

“We were able to travel with a larger playing panel for each camp which gave all the players named in our initial squad the opportunity to put their hand up for selection.

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This has driven our standards and made sure there’s been high quality competition for places in this Test match squad named.

“Ultimately we have picked a strong squad with a good mix of youth and experience who we feel can go out and deliver against Wales.”

Meanwhile, the visitors will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Spain in Madrid last weekend as they continue their packed November schedule.

Ospreys’ Alecs Donovan crossed for the sole Welsh score in the game, which ended in a 29-5 loss, but there is no time for Rowland Phillips’ side to dwell as they turn their attention to Ireland.

Along with the experienced heads of captain Cary Phillips and Sioned Harries, Wales also introduced a whole host of new talent to the international stage against Spain.

There were first caps for Gwenllian Jenkins, Georgia Evans, Abbie Fleming, Angharad De Smet, Megan Webb and Caitlin Lewis, along with replacements Robyn Lock and Niamh Terry.

And they will be itching to put their best foot forward once again with the 2020 Championship just around the corner as they look to make the most of Wales’ five Autumn internationals.

Encounters with Scotland, Crawshays and the Barbarians await after the clash with Ireland and the coaching set-up has been keen to stress the importance of blooding their new players.

Wales backs coach Gareth Wyatt said: “We are confident that the right things are being done. We need depth in the squad and a lot of lessons have been learned.

“We have got some exceptional talent in Wales, but we must have competition for places in the side and that is exactly what we will have by the time we play the Barbarians at the end of the month.”

Chris Horsman, Wales set-piece coach, added: “Our ultimate aim as a performance programme is to close the gap between ourselves and the best teams in international women’s rugby. We are ninth at the moment and we are determined to climb the rankings.

“In terms of the autumn series, we have a chance to develop our strength in depth given we are already qualified for the Rugby World Cup. However, at the end of the day it’s a Test match and that will bring the challenges you’d expect from a Six Nations side.”

Ireland: Eimear Considine; Lauren Delany, Enya Breen, Sene Naoupu, Beibhinn Parsons; Ellen Murphy, Nicole Cronin; Laura Feely, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang, Nichola Fryday, Judy Bobbett, Ciara Griffin, Edel McMahon, Anna Caplice

Replacements: Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony, Katie O’Dwyer, Anne-Marie O’Hora, Niamh Ni Dhroma, Hannah O’Connor, Kathryn Dane, Larissa Muldoon, Michelle Claffey

Wales: Kayleigh Powell*; Paige Randall*, Alecs Donovan, Robyn Wilkins, Courtney Keight*; Elinor Snowsill, Ffion Lewis; Gwenllian Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Amy Evans, Natalia John, Gwen Crabb, Alex Callender, Bethan Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap

Replacements: Carys Phillips, Gwenllian Jenkins, Cerys Hale, Sioned Harries, Robyn Lock, Keira Bevan, Megan Webb, Rebekah O’Loughlin*