This weekend see’s the start of the 2017 Irish Women’s Interprovincial Series and it has the potential to be an interesting one this season.

A few stalwarts of the game have retired from Interprovincial and International rugby following Ireland’s disastrous World Cup and with a new casual regime in place at Ireland Women a few of the players will be looking to give it a lash in these fixtures with a view to hopefully being able to rock up at a few Ireland training sessions for a bit of the old craic!  🙄

Ulster v Leinster

The sides are hoping that thier players will come back unscathed from the Ireland Sevens Development Team’s jolly to Dubai so the match day squads have still to be confirmed. It’s a real pity as it’s really hampered the promotion of this tournament which, having watched a few games in the English Women’s Premiership, is well up to the standard of the (comparitively) heavily promoted vehicle for their English counterparts.

I’d have liked to interview a few of the players and built up a bit of frisson between the two sides, particularly as Leinster have already written Ulster off and are eagerly looking forward to their “Championship decider” against Munster on December 16th.

The teams will likely be announced around 1:00pm this afternoon after the Ireland side presumably finish off teams like the mighty Delta Drone Tuks Ladies, The Royals (God bless em) or Randwick Magic at 12:00 which are obviously much more important matches than the historic Interprovincials. For fuck’s sake I do despair.

However, as I’m heading off to Newport for a bit of an old jolly myself shortly I’ll give it my best guess.

Ulster are likely to consist of mostly Cooke players with Railway Union’s Larissa Muldoon and Nikki Caughey together with Old Belvedere’s Kathryn Dane thrown in. Malone’s Neve Jones and Firwood Waterloo Ladies prospective signing Storm Kristin Foy Cobain are likely to feature as should Ballynahinch’s Amanda McGinn and Cavan’s Aishling O’Connell.

The return to the fold of the vastly experienced Irish International Larissa Muldoon is a big boost for Ulster this season though it has probably given the new Ulster management team of Derek Suffern and, Head Coach, Davy Chambers a bit of a headache as to whether to start Mulddon or, up and coming starlet, Vicky Irwin (Cooke) at out half. However both can play at out half and full back so we may find an interchanging role as Ulster look to build on the exciting attacking game they started to develop over the summer. Certainly, Head Coach Chambers will be keen to keep Irwin involved as she bossed the Women’s U18 Interpros for his Ulster team last season.

Up front the rampaging Ilse van Staden is likely to be Ulster’s key player and the Cooke stalwart will be keen to make an impression on Ireland Women’s interim casual coach Adam Griggs who also has time to look after the Leinster side.

Leinster will be missing go to players Nora Stapleton,  Marie Louise Reilly, both retired from representative rugby, and Jenny Murphy, injured. But they can still pick a strong side with Old Belvedere and Railway Union forming the core of their side. Ireland stalwarts Sophie Spence, Paula Fitzpatrick and Lindsay Peat are likely to feature up front and they will probably outpower Ulster in the engine room of second row but elsewhere it should be fairly even with Ulster likely to have the more settled and exciting back line for a change.

Likely Ulster Squad.

Forwards: Ilse van Staden, Aishling O’Connell, Beth Cregan, Neve Jones, Hannah Beattie, Rebecca Smyth, Lesley Megarity,  Gemma McCutcheon. Lauren Maginnes, Helen McGee, Amanda Maginn, Storm Cobain.

Backs: Amy Graham, Kathryn Dane, Larissa Muldoon, Vicky Irwin, Peita McAlister, Nikki Caughey, Brittany Hogan, Eliza Downey, Emma Jordan, Teah Maguire.

Leinster from:

Forwards: Carla Claassen, Ciara Cooney, Linda Dempsey, Linda Djougang, Jennie Finlay, Paula Fitzpatrick, Orla Fitzsimons, Christy Haney, Oonagh Hynes, Rachel Horan, Caoimhe Molloy, Aoife McDermott, Cliodhna Moloney, Fiona O’Brien, Lindsay Peat, Ann-Marie Rooney, Juliet Short, Sophie Spence.

Backs: Nicole Carroll, Michelle Claffey, Aimee Clarke, Eimear Corri, Aine Donnelly, Ailsa Hughes, Maria Kenny, Meaghan Kenny, Ciara McDonnell, Sene Naoupu, Elise O’Byrne-White, Meg Parkinson, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Hannah Tyrrell, Megan Williams.

The FRU Predicts: Few things would give me more pleasure than Ulster sticking it to the D4 Divas in, what I hope is, an entertainingly feisty match. Certainly I expect Ulster to take it to them early on. However there should be enough Leinster leading ladies to take this one.

Unfortunately haven’t time to preview Connacht v Munster in any detail, but with Connaught in absolute chaos this season and Munster consisting largely of our old buddies, “The Invincibles”, at UL Bohemian I expect Munster to take this one with something to spare.

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