Wales travel to Dublin on Saturday to play Ireland in the opening round of the 2022 Women’s Six Nations.
It will be Wales’ first with professional players in their ranks. The Wales Rugby Union have handed out 12 professional contracts alongside some retainer deals which sees athletes part-time in the sport.
Ioan Cunningham is the new head coach and is encourages by the progress the team are making. He has layed out what progress he wants to see at the tournament, saying: “There is now healthy competition throughout the squad which is ideal.
“We want to build on the good progress we saw in the autumn. We want to play a high tempo game and have challenged the players to perform at high intensity.”
But who has he selected and how can fans watch? Here’s all you need to know.
When is it?
The match will kick-off at 4.45pm on Saturday 26 March at the RDS Arena.
How can I watch
The fixture will be available to watch on BBC Two Northern Ireland and fans can also stream the game on BBC iPlaye
The biggest shock in the Ireland line-up is that star winger Beibihinn Parsons has been left on the bench with Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Lucy Mulhall favoured. Scrum-half Aoibheann Reilly will make her debut and in the forwards new captain Nichola Fryday starts at lock. Christy Haney and Anna McGann could also win their first caps from the bench.
Meanwhile, for Wales, they have experienced players lining up for them. Captain Siwan Lillicrap starts at no.8 with Alisha Butchers and Alex Callender making up the back row. In the backs, Jasmine Joyce starts on the wing with Hannah Jones and Kerin Lake the centre partnership. And from the bench Sioned Harries could make her first appearance since 2019.
Ireland: Eimear Considine; Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall; Nicole Cronin, Aoibheann Reilly; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Katie O’Dwyer, Nichola Fryday, Sam Monaghan, Dorothy Wall, Edel McMahon, Brittany Hogan.
Replacements: Emma Hooban, Chloe Pearse, Christy Haney, Anna McGann, Hannah O’Connor, Kathryn Dane, Enya Breen, Beibhinn Parsons.
Wales: Kayleigh Powell; Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones, Kerin Lake, Jasmine Joyce; Elinor Snowsill, Keira Bevan; Gwenllian Pyrs, Carys Phillips, Cerys Hale, Natalia John, Gwen Crabb, Alisha Butchers, Alex Callender, Siwan Lillicrap (captain).
Replacements: Kelsey Jones, Cara Hope, Donna Rose, Sioned Harries, Bethan Lewis, Ffion Lewis, Robyn Wilkins, Sisilla Tuipulotu.
While many may favour Ireland in this fixture, it will be a lot closer than many think with the morale in both camps shifted from last year. Ireland failed to qualify for the World Cup and conversely 12 Wales players are now professional. Ireland may still get the win but it won’t be as easy as they may think. Ireland 20-15 Wales.