Irish coach happy with squad balance

Ireland captain Niamh Briggs and coach Tom Tierney

Ireland captain Niamh Briggs and coach Tom Tierney are aiming to retain the Women’s Six Nations crown

Ireland Women’s coach Tom Tierney says his squad boasts a “nice blend of youth and experience” as they prepare to defend their Six Nations crown.

Ireland play Wales at Donnybrook on 6 February as they begin their attempt to win a third successive title.

“We have a squad full of talent and the vibe in the camp has been very positive over the last few weeks,” said Tierney.

Ireland, who lost 15-5 in Wales in a warm-up game last weekend, will again be captained by full-back Niamh Briggs.

Queen’s University and Ulster back Claire McLaughlin is one of seven uncapped players included in the squad.

Munster players Zoe Grattage and Ciara Griffin are joined by Tralee club-mate Ciara O’Connor, who plays provincial rugby for Connacht.

St Mary’s and Connacht flanker Grainne Egan is the other uncapped player in the pack.

Munster wing Liz Burke and centre Elise O’Byrne-White are also yet to make their first appearance in an Ireland shirt.

“We’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of the girls play and we’ve looked at a number of combinations. The newer members of the squad are doing really well,” enthused Tierney.

Ireland will play all their home games at Donnybrook, but face testing away trips to France and England.

The Irish side won four of their five fixtures last year, while Wales finished in a disappointing fifth place.

Ireland Women’s Six Nations 2016 squad:

Forwards: Elaine Anthony (Munster), Ciara Cooney (Leinster), Ailis Egan (Leinster), Grainne Egan (Connacht), Paula Fitzpatrick (Leinster), Orla Fitzsimons (Leinster), Zoe Grattage (Munster), Ciara Griffin (Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol), Cliodhna Moloney (Leinster), Heather O’Brien (Munster), Fiona O’Brien (Leinster), Ciara O’Connor (Connacht), Ruth O’Reilly (Connacht), Lindsay Peat (Leinster), Fiona Reidy (Munster), Marie-Louise Reilly (Leinster), Sophie Spence (Leinster).

Backs: Niamh Briggs (Munster), Liz Burke (Munster), Nikki Caughey (Ulster), Mairead Coyne (Connacht), Aine Donnelly (Leinster), Mary Healy (Connacht), Claire McLaughlin (Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Skewen), Sene Naoupu (Connacht), Elise O’Byrne-White (Leinster), Jackie Shiels (Richmond), Nora Stapleton (Leinster).

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