WOMEN’S RUGBY: Ireland debut for Nicole Cronin ahead of Japan clash at World Cup

Claire Molloy talks to her team in the huddle
Claire Molloy talks to her team in the huddle

Nicole Cronin will make her Test debut as Ireland face Japan in the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Sunday.

Hosts Ireland edged out Australia 19-17 in their Pool C opener last weekend, but head coach Tom Tierney has still made seven changes for the Japan clash.

Katie Fitzhenry and Claire McLaughlin

Katie Fitzhenry and Claire McLaughlin

Boss Tierney has opted to rest several key faces ahead of the crucial clash with Japan on Thursday that could well decide the pool.

Tighthead prop Ciara O’Connor will make her first Test start, while Ciara Cooney will make her fifth start at lock.

“We had a really tough encounter with Australia on Sunday evening in the opening game, and while we came away with the win, there a number of areas that we’ve focused on over the past two days that we will need to improve on for tomorrow’s test with Japan,” said Ireland boss Tierney.

“We know that the Japanese are going to throw everything at us tomorrow evening.

Lindsay Peat and Head coach Tom Tierney

Lindsay Peat and Head coach Tom Tierney

“They’re very fit, they like to move the ball wide and they are very quick to the breakdown.”

France thrashed Japan 71-14 in their first Pool C clash, leaving Ireland now expected to register another victory in their home tournament.

While Tierney has rotated his squad to suit the demands of the opposition, he also insisted he has handed an opportunity for new faces to impress and push for starting berths.

“We’ve made a number of changes to the side from the Australia game with a view to giving some players a rest from what was a very physical game,” said Tierney.

“But we also want to give the other members of the squad the opportunity to show what they can do against a fast and agile Japanese team”.

Ireland Women’s team to face Japan in Dublin on Sunday: M Coyne (Connacht), H Tyrrell, K Fitzhenry (both Leinster), S Naoupu (Harlequins), A Miller (Connacht), N Stapleton (Leinster), N Cronin (Munster), L Peat, C Moloney (both Leinster), C O’Connor (Connacht), C Cooney, S Spence (both Leinster), C Griffin (Munster), A Baxter (Ulster), C Molloy (Bristol, captain). Replacements: L Lyons (Munster), R O’Reilly (Connacht), A Egan, P Fitzpatrick (both Leinster), A Caplice (Munster), L Muldoon (Ulster), J Deacon (Leinster), L Galvin (Munster).