Both teams have now been announced for Ulster Women’s opening Interprovincial as they take on Munster Women at Ravenhill on Saturday afternoon. Kick off 3:00 pm. 

Ulster’s coaches, Philip Doyle and Jarrett Truscott, have decided on a mixture of youth and experience, with four of this season’s successful U18 Women’s site making the squad, Storm Cobain and Hannah Beattie starting in the pack with Vicky Irwin and Leah McGoldrick looking to get their first cap from the bench. 

The experience comes in the form of three Irish Internationals, Amy Davis, Eliza Downey and Claire McLaughlin. Davies starts on the wing and Downey and McLaughlin form, what should be, an exciting centre partnership. Peita McAllister, wing, and Maeve Liston, full back, complete the back three.

It’s a useful back line and certainly one that will cause problems, particularly if half back pairing Kathryn Dane and Jemma Jackson can put some pace on the ball. I’d like to see Jackson put herself under pressure and take the ball flat. 

Of course, we all know that it’s up front where the battle will be won and lost, and Munster have a distinct advantage with their grizzly old pack featuring seven internationals  with a couple of spares on the bench!  For Ulster, the experienced Cooke front row of Ilse van Staden, Lesley Megarity and Sorcha Mac Laimhin will be right at the coal face and, literally, a lot is going to rest on their shoulders. However, I’m expecting big things from all three, and Van Staden in particular. The talented prop has been working hard for the last 18 months, and this is her chance to show the Irish selectors what they are missing. 

It’s a big drop in experience from the front row to the second row, and, it would be fair to say, the young pairing of Naomi McCullough and Hanna Beattie would be a touch short of their Munster counterparts both in kilos and caps! However they both are athletic and, I suspect, their brief will be to throw down an anchor in the scrums and do well in the lineouts as Ulster look to develop a fast paced game. 

This would seem to be confirmed by the make up of the back row with captain Gemma McCutcheon and Storm Cobain, both at ease all over the pitch and prepared to cover every blade of grass on it. The balance comes from Lauren Maginnes, who’ll be punching out the hard yards up the centre. With Munster fielding the vastly experienced Siobhán Fleming and Heather O’Brien, along side fellow international Anna Caplice, it’ll certainly be an intriguing battle and one I’m looking forward to. 

Alongside the wonderfully talented duo of Vicky Irwin and Leah McGoldrick, in the replacements, there are further new caps with Aishling O’Connell and Brigid Collins looking to get their first run out for the province. Shauna Martin will be looking to progress from her cap last season and Beth Creggan, Emma Jordan and Imogen Porter offer plenty of experience if called upon.

We caught up with Ulster coach Philip Doyle earlier today and, in his second season with Ulster, he’s looking forward to see how his and, fellow coach, Jarrett Truscott’s charges have progressed: 

“We feel we have come a long way in just two short seasons and, while we may have some way to go, we, as a squad, are very happy that we can close that gap on this very experienced side that Munster are coming with.

“It’s all about the possibly of getting more Ulster girls into the green jersey and, with Claire proving that it can be done, it gives great positivity to the camp going into the campaign this year.” 

The FRU Predicts: I would be lying if I said I expected Ulster to win this one, Munster have just too much experience, but I am genuinely excited to see how this young Ulster team performs. It will be a lot closer than the visitors suspect. #SUFTUW

Ulster Women   Munster Women
Maeve Liston 15 Aine Staunton
Peita McAlister 14 Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird
Eliza Downey 13 Niamh Kavanagh
Claire McLaughlin 12 Nicola Scully
Amy Davis 11 Eimear Considine
Jemma Jackson 10 Valerie Power
Kathryn Dane 9 Ellen Murphy
Ilse Van Staden 1 Fiona Reidy
Lesley Megarity 2 Gill Bourke
Sorcha Mac Laimhin 3 Leah Lyons
Naomi McCullagh 4 Chloe Pearse
Hannah Beattie 5 Orlaith Buckley
Storm Cobain 6 Siobhán Fleming
Gemma McCutcheon 7 Anna Caplice
Lauren Maginnes 8 Heather O’Brien
     
Brigid Collins 16 Zoe Grattage
Shauna Martin 17 Fiona Hayes
Beth Cregan 18 Nuala O’Connor
Aishling O’Connell 19 Sara Hartigan
Vicky Irwin 20 Christine Arthurs
Emma Jordan 21 Mona Fehily
Leah McGoldrick 22 Edel Murphy
Imogen Porter 23 Laura Sheehan

#SUFTUM