Connacht Women’s Rugby hosts a rare representative doubleheader this weekend when Munster's senior and u-18 teams visit the Sportsground on Saturday.
Interpro winners last season, Munster denied Connacht with a 38m penalty on full-time to win 9-7. Had the penalty strayed wide, Connacht would have won the title on points differential from Leinster.
Of last year’s squad of 26, 18 are returning to the squad, including captain Ruth O’Reilly who picked up a Six Nations title for Ireland this season.
The senior game which kicks off at 3pm will be preceded by the u-18s, coached by former Irish international Sinead Cosgrave.
Cosgrave is confident this year’s emerging talent lacks little in terms of skill and focus.
“Ballinasloe, Creggs, Galwegians, Ballina, Tuam and Westport are all represented, so it really is the pick of the province. They’ve all adhered to strength and conditioning programmes since May and, for youngsters so new to elite level training, they’ve impressed us from the start.“
Cosgrave is confident the majority of her 2015 crop will feature as Connacht seniors in due course, following last year's underage graduates, Castlebar’s Ursula Sammon and Ballina’s Eimear Murphy, who found favour with senior selectors Luke O’Donnell and George Naoupu.
Munster’s Saturday game is Connacht’s only home fixture this summer, as they are away to Leinster in Donnybrook next weekend, and in Portadown against Ulster on September 5.
Connacht v Munster
Connacht Rugby wind up their pre-season challenges tomorrow evening in Thomond Park with what is expected to be a tough work-out against Anthony Foley’s Munster.
Both coaches are expected to name strong sides in this final warm-up ahead of the new Guinness Pro 12 season.
Connacht’s Pat Lam has available both scrum half Kieran Marmion and prop Nathan White, who made an impact in his first appearance for Ireland last weekend, in addition to returning locks Ali Muldowney and Quinn Roux, and hooker Jason Harris-Wright. The only injury from the Castres fixture in France is centre Api Pewhairangi who is undergoing tests this week on an injured knee, while wing Niyi Adeolokun continues to be ruled out with a similar injury.
The fixture will be a more meaningful test for both sides, and Foley is expected to name his big-name New Zealand signing Francis Saili in his line-up, a player well known to Pat Lam. Capped twice for the All Blacks, Saili comes to Munster from the Blues and will present a challenge for many defences.
Meanwhile Connacht’s Seven’s coach Conor McPhillips has named a 12-man squad for Limerick’s World Club tournament this weekend.
Ireland sevens’ player Shane Laydon will captain the side which includes Peter Robb, Danny Qualter, Caolin Blade, Ciaran Gaffney, Ed O’Keeffe, Fionn Carr, James Connolloy, Conor Lowndes, Ian Porter, Cormac Brennan and Shane O’Leary.