Injury forces changes to Ireland women’s team for Twickenham
Chance for Nicole Cronin, Emma Hooban, Leah Lyons and Nichola Fryday to impress
Ireland Women’s Rugby coach Adam Griggs: “This is probably the best preparation we can get going into a Six Nations.” Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Following a disappointing home defeat to the USA last weekend, Ireland Women’s head coach Adam Griggs has made six alterations to his side for this Saturday’s international against England at Twickenham Stadium (5.40pm, Sky Sports Action).
Nicole Cronin, Emma Hooban, Leah Lyons and Nichola Fryday all get a chance to impress from the start, while Jeamie Deacon and debutante Juliet Short have been drafted into the backrow alongside the experienced Claire Molloy.
Even though there was always going to be scope for change, Griggs revealed that injuries have partly forced his hand for the trip to London.
“You saw Ciara Cooney had a dislocated shoulder, so she’s ruled out probably for most of the season now. Also, our captain Ciara Griffin has an injury. She took a knock during the game [last week]. That’s going to keep her out as well, which is difficult because she was one of our best performers,” Griggs explained on Wednesday in Dublin’s Sandymount Hotel. Sene Naoupu will lead the team in place of the injured captain.
“Again, it gives these players a chance to experience England and Twickenham, which is no bigger. If I’m looking forward again, this is probably the best preparation we can get going into a Six Nations. ”
In the absence of the influential Griffin, Short has been entrusted with the pivotal number eight role in a forward pack that includes Lindsay Peat and Aoife McDermott for a second week in succession.
It represents a serious baptism of fire for the Railway Union star, but Griggs is convinced she is ready for the big step up to the international grade.
“It was a very tough decision to leave her [Short] out of last weekend. I think it highlights the strength in our backrow at the moment. She was always someone we planned on giving time throughout this November window. Now she gets her chance starting. She’s in a different position at number eight.
“Again that’s a little bit injury-enforced, but if you watched Juliet play in the interpros [for Leinster], she brings physicality. She’s very dynamic on the ball. We’re going to need that to try and get some go-forward this weekend,” Griggs added.
When Ireland last faced England back in March at the Ricoh Arena, it was the curtain-raiser for an U20 Six Nations clash between the same two nations. It will be a similar scenario for Griggs’s charges on Saturday in Twickenham, only this time they will be preceded by the mouthwatering men’s Test encounter of England and Australia.
Despite welcoming this innovation from their cross-channel counterparts, Griggs doesn’t see the need for the IRFU to go down a similar route.
“We’re hoping that there’ll still be a crowd from the men’s game as well and there’s free entry, which is really great from the RFU that they’ve put that on. It is about supporting both Ireland and England in this environment and making sure we get plenty of people in to see this game.
“If you look at Sunday and the crowd that we had, we draw a good crowd. We had really good support. The beauty of the women’s game is it’s a tight-knit community. A lot of friends and family know these players very personally. What we had on Sunday was brilliant. We couldn’t have asked for better support to cheer us on,” Griggs said.
IRELAND: L Delany; E Considine, S Naoupu, M Claffey, L Sheehan; N Caughey, N Cronin; L Peat, E Hooban, L Lyons; A McDermott, N Fryday; J Deacon, C Molloy, J Short. Replacements: S Mimnagh, L Feely, F Reid, C McLaughlin, E McMahon, A Hughes, E Murphy, B Parsons.