Veterans keep Nikki Caughey calm

Ireland’s inexperienced women’s out-half Nikki Caughey thought there would be more nerves on her return to the team against Wales last weekend after a two-year absence with injury.

Veterans keep Nikki Caughey calm

Instead, there was just a sense of calm rippled by nothing more threatening than the odd wave of excitement and she will likely be just as composed in Perpignan tomorrow knowing Sene Naoupu is alongside her.

The Kiwi-born wife of Connacht number eight George Naoupu is just 12 months into her own Test career, but she scored a sensational try from inside-centre last weekend and complemented it with a number of jarring tackles.

Naoupu is now in her early thirties but she is experiencing a rebirth to a career that stretches back to her native New Zealand and a trial with the Black Ferns having also linked up with the Irish national Sevens side.

Her presence, and that of several other veterans, was a huge boost to the dozen players in Tom Tierney’s squad who were experiencing the heat of a Six Nations contest for the first time in Donnybrook last Saturday.

“The experienced girls are there to keep your heads right and stuff and you had someone with the class of Sene Naoupu there as well even though she is fairly new too,” said Caughey. “To have that class of a player behind you keeping you right makes you relax as well.” The Ulster woman also had the experienced duo of scrum-half Larisa Muldoon and team captain and full-back Niamh Briggs to lean on during last week’s 21-3 victory and those same pillars will be standing in Perpignan tomorrow.

Yet it is in the pack where Tierney can boast the majority of experience and class as Ireland’s women seek a first ever victory on French soil. He has made just one change this week with Railway Union’s Cliodhna Moloney replacing Zoe Grattage at hooker.

Ireland Women v France:

N Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); E O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere/Leinster), A Donnelly (Cill Dara/Leinster), S Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht), M Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht); N Caughey (Railway Union/Ulster), L Muldoon (Skewen/Exiles); R O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), C Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), A Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster); S Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), ML Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster); P Fitzpatrick (Toulouse), C Molloy (Bristol/Exiles), H O’Brien (Toulouse).

Replacements:

Z Grattage (Tralee/Munster), L Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), F Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster), C Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster), C Griffin (Tralee/Munster), M Healy (Galwegians/Connacht), N Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), J Shiels (Richmond/Exiles).

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