Ireland women’s rugby head coach, Adam Griggs, has dismissed suggestions that his side’s amateur status puts them at a disadvantage for their Six Nations bow, against England on Friday night.
Despite their opponents securing full-time contracts in recent months, Griggs believes all the foundations are in place for the Irish to defy the odds, in front of a packed Donnybrook.
“As long as we can put in a performance we know we’re capable of, I think that’s going to set us up nicely.
"In terms of the professionalism, the England squad have always had that depth anyway,” Griggs said at yesterday’s team announcement in Dublin.
While Friday’s game will come too soon for loosehead prop, Lindsay Peat, Alison Miller makes a welcome return to a Six Nations match-day squad.
Following an injury-ravaged 2018, the Laois native is named on the bench, along with potential debutants, Linda Djougang, Annie Marie O’Hara, and Kathryn Dane.
As tempting as it was to include the Grand Slam champion, the impressive autumn form of Eimear Considine and Megan Williams means Miller will stay in reserve for the visit of the Red Rose.
“She [Miller] has been doing really well. We just wanted to make sure that we don’t throw her straight back in. It’s about making sure that she gets her confidence back up, as well. Her playing against Wales [in a warm-up] a couple of weeks ago was certainly a step in the right direction for her there,” Griggs said.
“If you look at someone like Eimear Considine, who, in November, was one of our star players, it’s a bit of a reward for her and Megan Williams, as well. I’m sure Ali will get some time on the field and I know she’ll show us what she can do.”
Griggs also confirmed that the quartet of Beibhinn Parsons, Eve Higgins, Louise Galvin, and Hannah Tyrrell — who are on sevens duty in Sydney this weekend — will be integrated back into the squad, ahead of their round-three encounter with Italy.
It is the view of many that this arrangement is holding back the 15s game. But as someone who is heavily involved in both set-ups, the New Zealander sees it as a help, rather than a hindrance.
“That’s really good and, also, we’ve had them in the first two camps of January, while they weren’t away. If they can perform well in training, then they can put their hand up for selection,” Griggs added. Lining out with Juliet Short and Claire Molloy in the back-row, Kerry’s Ciara Griffin will again be captain. Laura Feely will fill the void left by Peat in the front-row, while Nicole Fowley is given the nod, alongside Ailsa Hughes, at half-back.
L Delany; E Considine, S Naoupu, M Claffey, M Williams; N Fowley, A Hughes; L Feely, L Lyons, F Reidy; A McDermott, N Fryday; J Short, C Molloy, C Griffin.
E Hooban, L Djougang, AM O’Hora, A Caplice, C McLaughlin, K Dane, E Murphy, A Miller.