Connacht Women open their interprovincial rugby campaign with a visit from Munster to the Galway Sportsground on Saturday (2.30pm ).
The Connacht women, who finished second behind winners Leinster in the 2016/17 season, will be eager to get one over Munster - the only team to beat Connacht last year.
The women's game at the Sportsground, now in its seventh interprovincial season, has made impressive strides in recent years, and like the men's game has seen much change this season.
Jarlath Naughton has taken over the coaching reigns after three years involvement, while Galwegians' prop Jason East and former Connacht midfielder Brian Murphy have joined the management team, and Galwegian Mark Moran has filled the vacant manager’s role.
Naughton’s says his main focus has been ensuring the squad is familiar with the new structures.
“Every year is going to yield new faces, which is fine, but each coach is going to have slightly different ways of doing things and slightly different priorities.
“We are happy with where we are and very much looking forward to seeing it come off on Saturday.”
Grainne Egan captains the side this season. The Ballygar native, who is also a former county camogie player and footballer, is in her seventh interpro campaign.
“There’s been a lot to take on board this year, new coaches, retirements, debutants and a pretty rugged lead-up weatherwise," she says. "We should be fairly competitive if we’re knee-deep in water with mouthfuls of mud anyway.”
Egan, who covers all back three spots, is likely to be joined by recent Barbarian Edel McMahon and Irish international Nichola Fryday. Up front Galwegian props Laura Feely and Ciara OConnor will be eager to impress the national management, while Ireland fullback/wing Mairead Coyne will add experience in the backline, along side Orla Dixon, Shannon Tuohy and Niamh Ni Dhroma.
Munster were 12-8 winners last season, but Connacht finished the series two points ahead courtesy of two bonus points, with Leinster winning the crown by superior points difference. There is usually little between these sides, which should ensure a tough opener on Saturday.