Leinster Women energised as they prepare for title defence
Ben Armstrong’s side will play directly after their male counterparts at Donnybrook
Leinster Women head coach Ben Armstrong during training. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
A new look format to the interprovincial series, 10 new caps and the middle slot of a triple-header at Donnybrook on Saturday afternoon, has energised the Leinster Women’s squad as they begin the defence of their title against Connacht (5.30).
The Women’s interprovincial follows a pre-season friendly between Leo Cullen’s Leinster and Coventry (3.0), while the final match of the day will be an Under-19 interpro between Leinster and Ulster (7.45). It is the first time that the Leinster Women’s side will play after their male counterparts, something that their coach Ben Armstrong admitted has been a huge fillip.
“When they first brought it to us we immediately said yes. I know the girls are really looking forward to it. It’s really exciting to be the first and hopefully the first of many. The other provinces will take note and probably look to do the same in the near future.”
The additional matches in the tournament is something that all concerned have eagerly embraced both from a provincial perspective and that of Ireland national team coach Adam Griggs, who will face into a World Cup qualification campaign.
Armstrong explained: “The five games are going to expose more girls to rugby at this level and realistically Griggsie had a tough time of it [in the Six Nations] but it was just through injury and so the more depth that we can create through more playing time at this level the better times he can call upon that experience. I think it is nothing but beneficial going forward to the World Cup qualification coming up.”
The New Zealander pointed out that arguably for the first time there is a generation of young women coming through who have played rugby as a primary sport, rather than switching from another code and that understanding of the game has been evident in a short space of time.
“Some of our Under-18s that have come up this year have more rugby in them than Lindsay [Peat]. They know the rugby stuff it will just be how they handle the nerves on game day and preparation. They are out-and-out rugby players now they are not coming cross-code. They are growing up making rugby decisions and we can see that in their training and their performances in trials.”
Leinster captain Sene Naoupu is likely to switch from her predominant role of centre at international level to outhalf for her province while there was good news in the form of a return, albeit later in the tournament of Jenny Murphy, following a serious knee injury.
Armstrong said: “It’s unreal to have her back not only just on the field. Jenny has a great way with words and after her first trial on the field having been out for a year hitting pads and running straight lines she said, ‘it’s nice to hit something with a pulse’. Jenny only knows one way and while she is a leader for the younger girls she’s going for a spot outright and she wants to prove that she’s not just coming back to tick a box.”