Ireland Women’s Rugby Coach Tom Tierney has opted for a high risk selection with his 28 player squad for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Dublin on 9th August.

In Heather O’Brien, Ashleigh Baxter, Nicole Cronin, Katie Fitzhenry and Jeamie Deacon, Tierny has selected five players who have not played any International XV’s rugby in over a year and with Niamh Briggs, Ruth O’Reilly, Ciara O’Connor, Cliodhna Moloney, Anna Caplice and Ciara Cooney you can add another six who have played less than 90 minutes of International XV’s rugby over the eight games available during the November Series and the Six Nations.

While you would expect a few bolters coming into the squad due to thier work at training camp etc., eleven players with limited playing time at this level over the last year does seem a high risk strategy.

In fairness, the like’s of O’Brien, Baxter and, of course, Briggs are all experienced internationals, all three having played in the 2013 Grand Slam and the 2014 World Cup and O’Reilly and O’Connor have been regular squad members throughout the last 18 months. Moloney would have been our first choice hooker for the Six Nations if she hadn’t picked up an injury at the start of the Autumn series and Caplice was our pick of the players in the 2017 Women’s AIL Cup Final. Fitzhenry, Cronin and Deacon have all been involved in the Ireland Women’s Sevens programme to varying degrees and most of the competing teams have called in several of their sevens proponents.

But there are questions. Front Row Union favourite, Baxter played on the wing on 2014, joined the Women’s Sevens programme shortly after and has now been selected as wing forward, a position she has only played in one game for Cooke, to my best recollection, over the last 18 months.

The magnificent Briggs has been injured for most of that period, only getting one run out against New Zealand in the autumn, and O’Brien has continued to play, and play very well, at club and provincial rugby in the back row but appears to be moving into second row for this competition. Briggs, OK, the best player of her generation and entirely and absolutely worth the risk as are Baxter and O’Brien, both absolutely dogged players: but why weren’t the latter two given game time over the last eight competitive fixtures?

Hopefully minor issues, there is still a strong core of experienced players, particularly in the pack, with 12 of the players playing in the 2014 Wold Cup.

The decisions have been made and fortune favours the brave, so lets all swing behind the team.

So, let’s get to the Ulster contingent. Huge congratulations to Ashleigh Baxter, Larissa Muldoon and Claire McLaughlin on making the cut. Unfortunately, Ilse van Staden and Nikki Caughey (injured) are on stand by and, it’s a difficult one here as their possible progress depends on the misfortune of others, but they both have outside chances of making an appearance.

The  full squad of 28 players is made up of 15 forwards and 13 backs. The selection, together with their province and minutes played the last eight Internationals is shown below.

Ireland Women Forwards Ireland Women Backs
Player Mins Province Player Mins Province
Lindsay Peat 513 Leinster   Larissa Muldoon 253 Ulster
Ruth O’Reilly 29 Connacht   Nicloe Cronin 0 Munster
Ailis Egan 547 Leinster   Nora Stapleton 535 Leinster
Ciara O’Connor 27 Connacht   Katie Fitzhenry 0 Leinster
Cliodhna Moloney 88 Leinster   Sene Naoupu 560 Connacht
Leah Lyons 481 Munster   Claire McLaughlin 202 Ulster
Sophie Spence 280 Leinster   Jenny Murphy 391 Leinster
Marie Louise Reilly 553 Leinster   Jeamie Deacon 0 Leinster
Heather O’Brien 0 Munster   Alison Miller 480 Connacht
Anna Caplice 74 Munster   Hannah Tyrrell 240 Leinster
Ashleigh Baxter 0 Ulster   Eimear Considine 120 Munster
Claire Molloy 496 Connacht   Mairead Coyne 530 Connacht
Paula Fitzpatrick 607 Leinster   Niamh Briggs 80 Munster
Ciara Griffin 568 Munster        
Ciara Cooney 89 Leinster        


The fixtures for the Pool stages of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup are shown below.

Billings Park, UCD, Dublin   UCD Bowl, Dublin
Wednesday, 9 August 2017   Wednesday, 9 August 2017
14:45 New Zealand v Wales   14:00 England v Spain
17:15 Canada v Hong Kong   16:30 USA v Italy
19:45 France v Japan   19:00 Ireland v Australia
Sunday, 13 August 2017   Sunday, 13 August 2017
12:00 New Zealand v Hong Kong   14:45 USA v Spain
14:30 England v Italy   17:15 Ireland v Japan
17:00 Canada v Wales   19:45 France v Australia
Thursday, 17 August 2017   Thursday, 17 August 2017
12:00 Canada v New Zealand   14:45 Italy v Spain
14:30 England v USA   17:15 Wales v Hong Kong
17:00 Australia v Japan   19:45 Ireland v France