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The teams for the first Women’s Autumn International were announced yesterday as Ireland officially start their preparations for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

It’s been good for Ireland Women that the International panel has got considerably more game time in the All Ireland League this season but attrition appears to have left coach Tom Tierney light on options, with quite a few of the 2014 WRWC legacy players missing for various reasons. Niamh Briggs and Sophie Spence being two notable absentees.

It’s also a team light on Ulster based players, there being none in the squad; though Dublin based ex Belfast Harlequins player Nikki Caughey has been included on the bench. Former Ulster player Larissa Muldoon starts at scrum half and Poppy Cleall, who played for Ulster in 2011 alongside Caughey and Muldoon, will pick up her fifth England cap should she make an appearance from the bench.

Cooke’s Claire McLaughlin, who is in the training squad, has only had one competitive game this season, due to rehab,  but may feature later in the series.

Nicole Fowley of Galwegians will start for her first cap alongside her former Galwegians teammate Sene Naoupu in the centre, while Highfield’s Leah Lyons and UL Bohemians Chloe Pearse will hope to pick up their first caps from the bench

It’s an intense series for Ireland who in England, Canada and New Zealand, face the top three Women’s teams in the world game on successive weekends, but, after years of neglect in the women’s game, it’s exactly the sort of opposition that needs to be lined up on a regular basis.

However, I suspect it will be a challenge too far this time round but, to me, this series is not about the results but rather the performance as Ireland look to boost their strength in depth, their lack of which ultimately stopped them reaching the 2014 WRWC Final.

The FRU Predicts: It’s not how you start but how you finish will be my mantra as I expect Ireland to improve over this series. I’m not expecting a classic here – a low scoring game with England coming out on top. Boo!

IRELAND ENGLAND
Mairead Coyne15Danielle Waterman
Niamh Kavanagh14Kay Wilson
Nicole Fowley13Claire Allan
Sene Naoupu12Rachael Burford
Alison Miller11Fiona Pocock
Nora Stapleton10Emily Scott
Larissa Muldoon9La Toya Mason
Lindsay Peat1Rochelle Clark
Cliodhna Moloney2Vicky Fleetwood
Ailis Egan3Laura Keates
Marie Louise Reilly4Tamara Taylor
Orla Fitzsimons5Harriet Millar-Mills
Ciara Griffin6Alex Matthews
Claire Molloy7Marlie Packer
Paula Fitzpatrick8Sarah Hunter
 
Leah Lyons16Amy Cokayne
Fiona Hayes17Vickii Cornborough
Fiona Reidy18Sarah Bern
Katie Norris19Poppy Cleall
Chloe Pearse20Izzy Noel-Smith
Mary Healy21Natasha Hunt
Nikki Caughey22Katy Mclean
Jackie Shiels23Ceri Large
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