Head coach Tom Tierney has named the Ireland Women’s team, sponsored by Aon, to take on the France in their first home game of the Women’s Six Nations at Donnybrook on Sunday (kick-off 12.45pm).
Six Conacht players are named in the squad with Claire Molloy, Mary Healy and Mairead coyne in the starting XV. Nichola Fryday, Ruth O’Reilly and Ciara O’Connor are amongst the replacements.
There are five personnel changes to the side that claimed a bonus point win over Italy in L’Aquila, including the welcome return of Sophie Spence to the second row where she partners Marie Louise Reilly.
There is a new-look back-line for the visit of les Bleues, with Healy wearing the number 9 jersey after an impressive second half display against Italy.
Ulster’s Claire McLaughlin comes into the starting line-up at inside centre, having been a replacement in Scotland and Italy. She will link up with Jenny Murphy in a powerful midfield pairing.
The back-three sees Coyne at full-back and Eimear Considine, who is set for her first start, and Kim Flood fill the wing spots. Flood was part of the Ireland Sevens side in Dubai and Sydney this season and won the last of her two 15s caps against Scotland 11 months ago.
The front row remains unchanged with young Highfield hooker Leah Lyons combining again with props Lindsay Peat and Ailis Egan. Flankers Ciara Griffin and Molloy and number 8 and captain Paula Fitzpatrick are all retained in the back row.
The replacements bench sees O’Reilly make her return to the Ireland set-up, having recovered from a knee injury. She makes up the front row reserves along with O’Connor and Ilse van Staden.
Ciara Cooney and Fryday will provide second row and back row cover respectively, while the returning Larissa Muldoon and Nikki Caughey and the uncapped Louise Galvin are the back-line options.
Commenting on the selection, Tom Tierney said: “We made things hard for ourselves at times in Italy, especially in the first half where we weren’t as accurate as we needed to be. However in the second half we improved and to claim the bonus point with the last play of the game was very pleasing.
“We now head into a tough test on Sunday against the French. They recovered well from their defeat to England on the opening weekend to show why they are defending champions as they beat Scotland well.
“We’ve got a couple of players getting their first Six Nations starts of this season, and we’re looking to continue to give players more game-time as we continue to develop depth in the squad ahead of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August.”
He added: “It’s our first home game of the Six Nations so we’re hoping to see a big turnout of fans on Sunday in Donnybrook.”
Tickets can be bought via www.ticketmaster.ie or on the day at Donnybrook. Stand €15, Terrace €10, Children Terrace or Stand €5, Family (Two adults and two children) Terrace €25.
IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v France, 2017 Women’s Six Nations Championship, Donnybrook, Sunday, February 26, kick-off 12.45pm):
15. Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht)
14. Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
13. Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
12. Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster)
11. Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster)
10. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
9. Mary Healy (Galwegians/Connacht)
1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster)
2. Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster)
3. Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
4. Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
5. Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
6. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
7. Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht)
8. Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster) (capt)
16. Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht)
17. Ilse van Staden (Cooke/Ulster)
18. Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht)
19. Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster)
20. Nichola Fryday (Tullamore/Connacht)
21. Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Leinster)
22. Nikki Caughey (Railway Union/Ulster)
23. Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
* Denotes uncapped player
Ireland Women’s Six Nations Schedule:
Friday, February 3
Scotland Women 15 Ireland Women 22, Broadwood Stadium, Glasgow
Sunday, February 12
Italy Women 3 Ireland Women 27, Stadio Tommaso Fattori, L’Aquila
Sunday, February 26
Ireland Women v France Women, Donnybrook Stadium, 12.45pm (live on RTE 2)
Saturday, March 11
Wales Women v Ireland Women, BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, 11.30am (live on RTE 2)
Friday, March 17
Ireland Women v England Women, Donnybrook Stadium, 8pm (live on RTE 2/Sky Sports