The final weekend of the Irish women’s interprovincial series is upon us and there is a tantalising title decider in store at Energia Park this weekend.
The two unbeaten teams in the competition, Leinster and Munster will go head to head at Donnybrook in a winner-takes-all clash.
While Munster are the defending champions – they edged out Leinster 11-5 at Thomond Park last season to seal the crown on points difference, Leinster come into the game in flying form.
Coached now by Ben Armstrong after Adam Griggs took over as Ireland boss in time for the 2018 Women’s Six Nations, the girls in blue have been on fire so far.
They are yet to concede a point after downing Ulster 17-0 at home and then Connacht 47-0 at the Sportsground last time out.
Munster meanwhile beat Connacht 24-7 at Irish Independent Park before seeing off Ulster 40-20 at Portadown to set up this crunch clash on Saturday at 7:30PM.
Unsurprisingly after a stunning two games, Leinster have barely altered a thing across the three weekends.
Their one change for the decider sees Hannah Tyrrell come in at full-back after impressing off the bench last time out.
Meanwhile Munster continue with Aine Staunton at 13 in the absence of Niamh Cavanagh – injured in the victory over Connacht.
They also switch Laura O’Mahony to right wing with Eimar Considine taking the No.15 shirt once again.
Meanwhile, in the battle for third position, Connacht host Ulster at 2:30PM on Saturday.
Connacht bring in Orla Dixon at fly-half as Nicole Fowley slides to inside centre while Ciara O’Connor and Nicola Caldbeck come into the pack.
Ulster bring in Aishling O’Connell to start at tighthead prop and Ella Durkan on the wing in their two personnel changes.
WHAT THEY SAID
Armstrong, Leinster’s head coach, on the boost of working with Leinster’s men’s coach Stuart Lancaster:
“We took a couple of their pillars, which is basically our work rate,” said Armstrong.
“We work for each other and we said to the girls that if we miss a tackle, that’s ok because the work rate from everyone else will look after that.
“We’re putting a lot of line speed on to put the other team’s skills under pressure, but if that tackle is missed because of it, then we know we’ve got each other’s backs further down the pitch. It’s something they’ve taken a lot of pride in.”
Munster head coach Laura Guest: “It’s survival of the fittest. We’ve had a look at both (Leinster) games and it’s no surprise that they’re looking strong and have scored heavily.
“Unfortunately, Connacht probably didn’t do themselves justice on the day last weekend.”
THREE TO WATCH
The midfield will be a key battleground on Saturday night at Donnybrook and Ireland and Leinster centre Sene Naoupu will carry the key for the hosts.
Named captain this year under Armstrong, she has led by example and will be itching to continue her budding partnership with Michelle Claffey – who only made her Ireland debut earlier this year.
Niamh Briggs Normally used as a fly-half or at full-back, Niamh Briggs is learning to love life at inside centre with Munster this season.
After a difficult run with injuries, the Ireland women’s star is back to something approaching her best. And her partnership with Rachel Allen-Connolly – who keeps the No.10 jersey – has been vital.
Briggs bagged a try last time out against Ulster and will want to keep that form going against Leinster.
Jeamie Deacon is clearly a woman of many talents. A former hockey star who has played both 7s and XVs for Ireland – this year she has added another string to her bow.
Formerly a centre, both Griggs and Armstrong suggested she make the switch to the back row and she has performed well at flanker this interpro series.
She continues in the No.6 jersey this weekend and will be vital to Leinster’s chances of reclaiming the crown they surrendered last year.