The teams have been announced for Saturday’s Wales v Ireland match in Pool B of the truncated 2021 Women’s Six Nations.
Wales go into the game on the back of a poor performance, a 53 – 0 thrashing by France in the opening round last weekend, and Ireland make their first appearance since October 2020 so it’s difficult to predict what to expect.
Ireland did win 31 – 12 the last time they met in the Six Nations back in February 2020 but Wales had self imploded at that stage and, despite eventually winning three from the four games completed in that tournament, Ireland have looked far from convincing during Adam Griggs tenure with a 35% win rate across all competitions.
Wales have appointed a new coach for this tournament and, with all but one of their squad playing in the English Premiership, I expected more from them in their game against France. They had some flashes in attack, but their defence was woeful. New coach Warren Abrahams has made four changes from last week as Cara Hope and Cerys Hale come into the front row and Natalia John starts at lock. There is one change behind the scrum with Courtney Keight starting on the left wing in place of Jasmine Joyce. That leaves them fielding 10 starting players from their last meeting with Ireland and 13 overall in the squad.
Ireland start 12 of the players that featured against Wales last season with Hannah Tyrrell and Eve Higgins the only changes to the back line. Higgins is one we’ve had our eye on for some time and though she has almost exclusively been involved with 7s she does have a game that should seamlessly transition to the XV’s game. Tyrrell’s transition from 7’s to XV’s may take longer in the key position of out half and I’m surprised that there is no experienced back up in the squad. It’s only Tyrrell’s second start at out half and it gives Wales a fairly obvious point of attack if they are intent in disrupting the Irish back line.
However, Ireland will no doubt be looking to a hard working defensive line and their forwards to win this one. This brought them relative success in the last Six Nations and, though their set pieces haven’t always been on point, the pack have always put in a huge effort. Dorothy Wall moves from the bench to the starting line up since the last meeting and she is joined by Nicola Fryday as the only other change to the forwards from that game.
Ireland’s bench gives Ulster pair Neve Jones and Brittany Hogan a chance to build on their first cap that they picked up against Italy, in November 2020, alongside Katie O’Dwyer, who also returns. The former AIL Player of the Season, Hannah O’Connor joins Hogan as second row/back row replacement and front row stalwart Laura Feely returns to the squad. Enya Breen is included as a back line replacement alongside, two bolters from the 7s programme, Emily Lane and Stacey Flood, Flood looking to match her sister Kim as a dual international across 7s and XV’s.
|Robyn Wilkins||15||Eimear Considine|
|Lisa Neumann||14||Lauren Delany|
|Hannah Jones||13||Eve Higgins*|
|Kerin Lake||12||Sene Naoupu|
|Courtney Keight||11||Beibhinn Parsons|
|Elinor Snowsill||10||Hannah Tyrrell|
|Jess Roberts||9||Kathryn Dane|
|Cara Hope||1||Lindsay Peat|
|Kelsey Jones||2||Cliodhna Moloney|
|Cerys Hale||3||Linda Djougang|
|Natalia John||4||Aoife McDermott|
|Gwen Crabb||5||Nichola Fryday|
|Georgia Evans||6||Dorothy Wall|
|Manon Johnes||7||Claire Molloy|
|Siwan Lillicrap (C)||8||Ciara Griffin (C)|
|Molly Kelly||16||Neve Jones|
|Caryl Thomas||17||Katie O’Dwyer|
|Donna Rose||18||Laura Feely|
|Teleri Wyn Davies||19||Brittany Hogan|
|Bethan Dainton||20||Hannah O’Connor|
|Megan Davies||21||Emily Lane*|
|Niamh Terry||22||Stacey Flood*|
|Caitlin Lewis||23||Enya Breen|
The FRU Predicts: Wales are at the start of their journey, under a new coach, in their preparations towards the World Cup and Ireland are coming towards the end of a three year journey to qualify for that competition. The new Welsh set up will still be experimenting but Ireland should be close to presenting the finished article.
Ireland need a convincing win and they should get it through their strong pack.