Irish rugby history will be made at Monkstown RFC today (12pm) when the Irish Defence Forces Women and An Garda Síochána Women combine for the first time to take on the French Armed Forces on International Women’s Day.
Munster and Ireland star Niamh Briggs spearheads the new Combined Forces team from fly-half and is one of four players in the starting line-up capped by Ireland in either XVs or sevens.
The squad is split roughly 50-50 between the Defence Forces and An Garda Siochána and is managed by injured Old Belvedere, Munster, and Ireland lock Elaine Anthony, a Defence Forces lieutenant.
“In key positions we have people like Niamh Briggs, a fantastically experienced player, and a lot of senior experience elsewhere as well as some great underage capped players coming through that can be inspired by those senior players,” Anthony said.
“This is our very first game as the Combined Forces, so we’re going all guns blazing really and it’s a baptism of fire but there’s no better fixture than this one against the French to test out our team.
“I would never say it’s going to be easy, it will definitely be quite a test and regardless of the levels of experience we have out on the pitch we need players to gel and work well as a team.
“We’ve had a couple of training sessions under our belt ahead of the captain’s run and overall the ethos we’ve created in the team is the belief we can do something great going forward and that’s what is binding us together.”
For the Defence Forces Women there is also the incentive to reignite former glories, as Anthony explained.
“Unfortunately I suffered a fairly significant shoulder injury in a Six Nations warm-up match against Wales in 2018 and two shoulder surgeries later I’m climbing back from the injury. In the time that lapsed in between I still wanted to be involved and as a newly commissioned officer last year I thought about rejuvenating the Defence Forces Women’s team, which had fallen away.
I was training with Leinster over the summer and got to know Detective Garda Lorna O’Connor, the manager of the Leinster women’s team, and was saying to her about needing to strengthen the Defence Forces team and what better way to strengthen it than by teaming up with An Garda Siochána?
“We’d know them all very well through club rugby and I thought if we could get together we’d have this fantastic team that could stand up and play international matches. So that’s how it came about and here we are on the eve of our first match.
“We are certainly looking at it that we can become very strong in the future. We’ve got an offer from the Royal Air Force to play them both at home and over there (in the UK). That would be an extremely testing fixture so we’re hoping we can make the logistics work for that to fulfil those fixtures this year and if not we’ll certainly have a couple of very interesting games in place for next season. This is far from a one-off, hopefully,” added Anthony.
C Raftery (Connacht); O Smith, M Kenny (Leinster), M O’Brien (Leinster, Ireland U18 7s), S O’Reilly (Ireland U18 7s); N Briggs (Munster, Ireland), N Fitzgerald (Munster, Ireland); C Molloy (Leinster), J Finlay (Leinster, Ireland), C O’Brien; N Guilfoyle, R O’Driscoll (Leinster); E Murphy (Munster), E Phelan (Connacht), N Ní Dhroma (Connacht, Ireland 7s).
C Walsh, S Moran, L McNamara (Munster), J O’Neill, E Durkin (Connacht), C Carroll, L McEvoy, S Mooney.