Ireland’s fresh faces ready for Italy challenge

Tom Tierney has selected a new pack while Niamh Briggs starts in midfield with Sene Naoupu

Women's Six Nations: Ireland v Italy, Donnybrook, 1pm

The Ireland team has been largely set in stone for several seasons.

Until now. Considering the championship is out of reach this is perhaps the most interesting line-up seen in the modern era with coach Tom Tierney blooding a host of Sevens players and untested forwards, but it’s the shifting of key players that could really change the team dynamic further down the tracks.

Niamh Briggs will wear number 13 in a fascinating midfield alongside Sene Naoupu while Sophie Spence moves to number eight as the entire Ireland backrow is benched or rested.

In fact, it's a completely new pack. Ailis Egan and Heather O'Brien - two mainstays during last season's run to the Six Nations title – don't even make the match day squad. That gives Lindsay Peat her starting debut at loosehead prop. The Dubliner is a recent convert to rugby but would be well known in GAA and basketball circles.

It can also be taken as certain that Claire Molloy and Paula Fitzpatrick will come off the bench at some stage along with Larissa Muldoon. Instead of Muldoon, Mary Healy makes her Six Nations debut at scrumhalf.

Welcome return

There is no Sevens tournament this weekend so Ali Miller makes a welcome return on the left wing where she makes up a brand new back three of Kim Flood, another Dublin footballer who gets a chance in Briggs' usual slot, and Liz Burke.

“While results haven’t gone our way since the opening game against Wales, we have been strong in passages of our play, but mistakes proved to be costly and because of that we just didn’t manage to come out on the right side of the results against France and England,” said Tierney ahead of this almost trial and error selection with a clear view to building squad depth, ahead of next year’s World Cup.

“We’ve made a number of changes this week and this is to allow players the opportunity to show us what they can do, and no better place to do it than at home in Donnybrook. There’s a couple of new caps and girls making their first Six Nations starts so it should make for an exciting game on Sunday.”

IRELAND: K Flood (Leinster); L Burke (Munster), N Briggs (Munster, c), S Naoupu (Connacht), A Miller (Connacht); N Caughey (Ulster), M Healy (Connacht); L Peat (Leinster), C Moloney (Leinster), A Egan (Leinster), E Anthony (Munster), M-L Reilly (Leinster), C Cooney (Leinster), C Griffin (Munster), S Spence (Leinster).

Replacements: Z Grattage (Munster), R O'Reilly (Connacht), F Reidy (Munster), C Molloy (Bristol), P Fitzpatrick (Toulouse), L Muldoon (Skewen), N Stapleton (Leinster), C McLaughlin (Ulster).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent