Ireland Women’s Rugby Coach Tom Tierney has opted for a high risk selection with his 28 player squad for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Dublin on 9th August.
In Heather O’Brien, Ashleigh Baxter, Nicole Cronin, Katie Fitzhenry and Jeamie Deacon, Tierney has selected five players who have not played any International XV’s rugby in over a year and with Niamh Briggs, Ruth O’Reilly, Ciara O’Connor, Cliodhna Moloney, Anna Caplice and Ciara Cooney you can add another six who have played less than 90 minutes of International XV’s rugby over the eight games available during the November Series and the Six Nations.
While you would expect a few bolters coming into the squad due to thier work at training camp etc., eleven players with limited playing time at this level over the last year does seem a high risk strategy.
In fairness, the like’s of O’Brien, Baxter and, of course, Briggs are all experienced internationals, all three having played in the 2013 Grand Slam and the 2014 World Cup and O’Reilly and O’Connor have been regular squad members throughout the last 18 months. Moloney would have been our first choice hooker for the Six Nations if she hadn’t picked up an injury at the start of the Autumn series and Caplice was our pick of the players in the 2017 Women’s AIL Cup Final. Fitzhenry, Cronin and Deacon have all been involved in the Ireland Women’s Sevens programme to varying degrees and most of the competing teams have called in several of their sevens proponents.
But there are questions. Front Row Union favourite, Baxter played on the wing on 2014, joined the Women’s Sevens programme shortly after and has now been selected as wing forward, a position she has only played in one game for Cooke, to my best recollection, over the last 18 months.
The magnificent Briggs has been injured for most of that period, only getting one run out against New Zealand in the autumn, and O’Brien has continued to play, and play very well, at club and provincial rugby in the back row but appears to be moving into second row for this competition. Briggs, OK, the best player of her generation and entirely and absolutely worth the risk as are Baxter and O’Brien, both absolutely dogged players: but why weren’t the latter two given game time over the last eight competitive fixtures?
Hopefully minor issues, there is still a strong core of experienced players, particularly in the pack, with 12 of the players playing in the 2014 Wold Cup.
The decisions have been made and fortune favours the brave, so lets all swing behind the team.
So, let’s get to the Ulster contingent. Huge congratulations to Ashleigh Baxter, Larissa Muldoon and Claire McLaughlin on making the cut. Unfortunately, Ilse van Staden and Nikki Caughey (injured) are on stand by and, it’s a difficult one here as their possible progress depends on the misfortune of others, but they both have outside chances of making an appearance.
The full squad of 28 players is made up of 15 forwards and 13 backs. The selection, together with their province and minutes played the last eight Internationals is shown below.
|Marie Louise Reilly||553||Leinster|