Ireland Women may lose three players to Sevens team for France game
Sene Naoupu, Hannah Tyrrell and Ali Miller could travel to Las Vegas for tournament on March 3rd and 4th
Sene Naoupu and Alison Miller: Irish management will confirm at Thursday’s team announcement if they will face France. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
In the middle of the Six Nations, in this Women’s Rugby World Cup year on home soil, the Ireland Sevens programme is poised to withdraw three key players from Tom Tierney’s 15-aside squad.
Sene Naoupu, the 2016 player of the year, Hannah Tyrrell, who ran 80 metres for the bonus-point try in Italy, and Ali Miller, who scored the most famous try in the history of Irish women’s rugby to help secure victory over the Black Ferns at the 2014 World Cup, are all due to travel to Las Vegas for the latest leg of the World Series on Friday week.
The Irish management will not confirm until Thursday’s team announcement whether Naoupu, Tyrrell or Miller will face France this Sunday.
All three players are seemingly essential for the Irish Sevens to be competitive in a pool that contains the USA, New Zealand and Fiji. The Las Vegas tournament takes place on March 3rd and 4th, so it is not in direct conflict with a Six Nations weekend.
It also remains unclear if the two wingers and Naoupu, who was born in New Zealand but who qualifies to play for Ireland via residency, will return for the Wales and England matches next month. “We can confirm, however, that all three of the mentioned players are contracted to the IRFU Sevens programme,” said IRFU spokesman Sam O’Byrne.
It also remains unclear if any more players will be taken from Tierney’s squad during this key preparatory period before the World Cup.
It was put to the IRFU that taking key figures out of the Six Nations squad could damage Ireland’s attempts at discovering the cohesion needed to escape a World Cup pool in August that includes Australia and France, Sunday’s opposition (Donnybrook, kick-off 12.45pm).
“As with similar nations operating both Sevens and 15s teams, there will be movement of players between both codes as we build towards the Women’s Rugby World Cup,” O’Byrne said.
“The plan being that by exposing more players to international 15s rugby, we can develop a team that can challenge in the forthcoming Women’s Rugby World Cup, taking into account the attritional nature of the game.”
Ireland have already secured two bonus-point victories against very poor opposition in Scotland and Italy despite captain Niamh Briggs being ruled out for the entire Six Nations due to persistent hamstring issues. However, lock Sophie Spence did return from long-term injury in L’Aquila.