Ireland mix experience with uncapped talent for Six Nations opener against Wales

Niamh Briggs will be the captain, but some inexperienced players are set to get a look in

Ireland, Niamh briggs, Six Nations,

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Niamh Briggs will once again captain the Ireland women's side as they face Wales in their Six Nations opener.

However, Head Coach Tom Tierney has named a side that features a number of uncapped players, as winger Elise O'Byrne-White and hooker Zoe Grattage will win their first caps on Saturday, while flanker Ciara Griffin will be hoping to make her Ireland debut from the bench.

The squad also features seven players who won their first caps last November in the Autumn International against England: Aine Donnelly and Mairead Coyne will win their second caps when they run out on Saturday, while Cliodhna Moloney, Lindsay Peat, Fiona Reidy, Ciara Cooney and Mary Healy all feature from the bench.

With 10 players involved in their first Six Nations, Tierney is said "it's very exciting [...] it gives others the opportunity to pull on the green jersey. We're now at a stage where we are developing more and more girls who are capable at competing at international level and it's a great to see". 

Having played a Wales selection in a warm-up fixture two weeks ago, Tierney added that it was a valuable exercise to see how the squad was going, and how the players might cope with the pressure now that they've been named as one of the world's best teams.

"The fact that we are facing the same opposition so soon is interesting, as both sides will have worked on particular areas of their games over the past two weeks. We've trained well, so we're now looking forward to putting that all into practice in a full-on test match".

For this year's Six Nations, the Ireland Women's team will play all three of their home fixtures in Donnybrook, and while it is a 4G pitch, Tierney stated that the move is "something we are all pleased with. We have a new crop of players coming through and a new stadium so it's a special time for the women's game in Ireland and we're looking forward to getting the campaign underway on Saturday".

The Ireland team in full is:

15-9: Niamh Briggs (Captain), Elise O'Byrne-White, Aine Donnelly, Sene Naoupu, Mairead Coyne, Nikki Caughey, Larissa Muldoon 

1-8: Ailis Egan, Zoe Grattage, Ruth O'Reilly, Sophie Spence, Marie-Louise Reilly, Paula Fitzpatrick, Claire Molloy, Heather O'Brien

Replacements (16-23): Cliodhna Moloney, Lindsay Peat, Fiona Reidy, Ciara Cooney, Ciara Griffin, Mary Healy, Nora Stapleton, Jackie Shiels