Ireland’s Director of Women’s Rugby Anthony Eddy, despite his claims otherwise, has decided to throw all his eggs into one basket by withdrawing three players from the national squad in an attempt to bolster the Ireland Women’s Sevens team in the unimportant but financially lucrative World Rugby Women’s Sevens series, or Women’s Sevens World Series or whatever it’s being branded as this season. 

All expectations were that following repeated failures in the sevens game, culminating in the failure to qualify for the Olympics last season – despite having everything tipped in their favour, that Ireland would focus all their attention on the 2017 World Cup In Ireland. 

This appears not to be the case following the withdrawal of  Alison Miller, Sene Naoupu and Hannah Tyrrell from the Ireland Squad, in favour of the sevens programme, in the middle of the Six Nations Series. Imagine if that happened in the men’s game!

It’s not as if the Ireland Squad are in the best of places at the minute. Constant changes to the starting line up  over the last four years has led to over thirty new caps, but few have managed to stay the course. The legacy players from the Philip Doyle era still the number one picks when available.

Certainly I had my issues with some of Doyles selections during his tenure (you can never have too many Ulster player in any squad 😛 ) and his reserved blooding of new talent was a bone of contention but, despite massive underfunding by today’s standards, Doyle and his coaches spent the time to develop the players and certainly got the absolute best out of them.

This is not the case now.  Six months out from the World Cup and they don’t know what their first choice 23 is. I could have had a good stab at that two years ago and I don’t think it’s changed much since. 

Anyway, let’s get to the current selection. 

Kim Flood, Claire McLaughlin and Eimear Considine come in for Tyrell, Naoupu and Miller respectively. Mary Healy comes in as starting scrum half and up front Sophie Spence comes into second row.

No disrespect to Considine, but the loss of Miller in the back three leaves a massive hole to be filled, Miller being the only go forward back on display over the last couple of games. I am however delighted to see McLaughlin get a start alongside Murphy and it’s something I called for in my Scotland preview. It might just present a more stable centre paring that the rest of the backs can play off. 

However, I suspect it’s going to be a difficult game for any of the backs to really shine as Ireland’s best hope is to play ten man rugby. However the French are more than capable of responding upfront, their wonderful captain Gaelle Mignot leading the way. She’ll be ably backed by, the impressive pair, Lenaig Corson and Safi N’Diaye, and their battles with Spence and Paula Fitzpatrick will be the key. 

On the bench Ruth O’Reilly makes a return as front row replacement alongside Ulster’s Ilse van Staden and Larissa Muldoon, who hopes to return to Ulster provincial rugby next season, makes a welcome return to the squad alongside fellow Ulster player Nikki Caughey. 

The FRU Predicts: I put this down as a win for France from the start of the Six Nations. There may just be a chance that Ireland Women will focus all the negativity around this match into a performance on the pitch, but I’m still going with the French.  🙁  Hopefully the players will prove me wrong. #COYGIG

Mairead Coyne 15 Jessy Trémoulière
Kim Flood 14 Camille Grassineau
Jenny Murphy 13 Caroline Ladagnous
Claire McLaughlin 12 Elodie Poublan
Eimear Considine 11 Shanon Izar
Nora Stapleton 10 Camille Cabalou
Mary Healy 9 Jade Le Pesq
Lindsay Peat 1 Lise Arricastre
Leah Lyons 2 Gaelle Mignot
Ailis Egan 3 Julie Duval
Sophie Spence 4 Lenaig Corson
Marie Louise Reilly 5 Audrey Forlani
Ciara Griffin 6 Marjorie Mayans
Claire Molloy 7 Romane Menager
Paula Fitzpatrick 8 Safi N’Diaye
Ciara O’Connor 16 Caroline Thomas
Ilse van Staden 17 Annaelle Deshayes
Ruth O’Reilly 18 Celine Ferer
Ciara Cooney 19 Laetitia Grand
Nichola Fryday 20 Yanna Rivoalen
Larissa Muldoon 21 Lucille Godiveau
Nikki Caughey 22 Marine Ménager
Louise Galvin 23 Paricia Carricaburu