Donegals finest, Larissa Muldoon, starts at scrum half for Ireland.

Donegal’s finest, Larissa Muldoon, starts at scrum half for Ireland.

Ireland coach Philip Doyle has made a surprising ten changes to the starting line up for Ireland’s match against Kazakhstan tomorrow afternoon, their last Pool game in the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

It’s a surprising number of changes from the normally cautious Doyle, who only utilised 23 players in the whole of the Grand Slam Six Nations in 2013, and, with Ireland only one game away from their first ever top four finish, it’s a rather audacious selection.

Ireland

1. Fiona Hayes
2. Gillian Bourke
3. Kerri Ann Craddock
4. Laura Guest
5. Orla Fitzsimons
6. Sharon Lynch
7. Siobhan Fleming
8. Paula Fitzpatrick
9. Larissa Muldoon
10. Tania Rosser
11. Hannah Casey
12. Grace Davitt
13. Lynne Cantwell (C)
14. Vikki McGinn
15. Jackie Shiels

16. Fiona Coghlan
17. Ailis Egan
18. Sophie Spence
19. Claire Molloy
20. Nora Stapleton
21. Alison Miller
22. Ashleigh Baxter

There is a backbone of experience in Gill Bourke, Larissa Muldoon, Tania Rosser, Grace Davitt and captain Lynne Cantwell together with a sprinkling of seasoned players in Fiona Hayes, Laura Guest and Siobhan Fleming but, even at that, it’s still easily the least experienced side Ireland have fielded in the last three years.

However, with two huge games in the offing it’s definitely the right call to rest key players and give the whole team experience and, don’t worry, if things don’t go to plan there is a big comfortable blanket of experience on the bench that can come on to change the game.

Kazakhstan

1. Yelena Muradova
2. Yelena Yevdokimova
3. Olga Bakhtiguzina
4. Lyudmila Matiyeva
5. Svetlana Karatygina
6. Symbat Zhamankulova
7. Kundyzay Baktybayeva
8. Marianna Balashova
9. Amina Baratova
10. Svetlana Klyuchnikova
11. Lyudmila Sapronova
12. Balzhan Koishybayeva
13. Anna Yakovleva (C)
14. Oxana Shadrina
15. Aigerym Daurembayeva

16. Irina Radzevil
17. Yelena Rogacheva
18. Yelena Kiryushina
19. Karina Proskurina
20. Anastassiya Khamova
21 Aigul Dairbayeva
22 Olga Sazonova

Such is the measure of Ireland’s rapid progression to the upper echelons of the women’s game that they will still be overwhelming favourites to win this one even though the teams have met four times before and Kazakhstan have won three to Ireland’s one.

Kazakhstan’s last win was fourteen years ago in 2000 and Ireland won the last meeting 37 – 3 in the 2010 Women’s World Cup though they did struggle for large periods of the first half if my memory serves me correctly.

To add further comfort to Ireland’s cause their opponents are the youngest, smallest and, by some stretch, the lightest side in Pool B and while they may offer some spirited resistance it really should be Ireland’s day.

Any win at all will put Ireland into the top four play offs, most likely as the third ranked qualifier. With the top two unbeaten sides playing each other in the other two pools it’s still a bit of a lottery as to who they will actually play with England, France, Canada and Australia all a possibility. However I’m predicting France to beat Australia and Canada to beat England with Canada Ireland’s next opponents.

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