Tullamore utility forward Nichola Fryday approaches this weekend’s women’s interpro Leinster clash as a rookie…never mind the two test caps under her belt.

Connacht commences its 2016 interpro campaign in Tuam at 2.00pm on Saturday hoping to exorcise some demons from fixtures past.

Most recently Connacht has squeezed interprovincial margins to such an extent but for more clinical finishing and two or three mistakes would have all but reversed 2014 and 15’s losses to their east coast counterparts.

For Fryday however, recent history counts for little. 5252a

” My main goal last year was to play the best rugby I could and give myself a shot at provincial selection. Making the Connacht squad earlier this year was already a pleasant surprise.”

The Tullamore blindside/eight may play club rugby in the Leinster catchment, but green is the new black this winter as far as she’s concerned swapping Irish kit for Connacht this weekend.

“It feels great to have experienced international rugby; something I’ve always dreamed of doing but it was certainly not on my radar 12 months ago. Getting the opportunity to play the last two matches against Canada and New Zealand is amazing.

“I still can’t quite believe it,” the long, lean 22-year-old said.

“Now it’s job-on against many of those team-mates one week later.”

Fryday (starting No.8) is one of five debutantes in the starting XV. Galwegian Amelie Roux (lock), Tullamore’s Shannon Tuohey (outside centre), NUIG and Galway County footballer Orla Dixon (wing) and Castlebar captain Anne-Marie O’Hora (prop) are also set to chalk up their first interprovincial fixtures.
Connacht Junior stalwart, Westport club relic and Connacht women’s coach John-Paul Walsh said 2016 was a bit of an unknown to date.

“We’re light, I won’t lie to you. We’re light on kilos, y’know? But that’s not a massive problem if everything else goes according to plan. We’ve got most of it ticking away quite nicely, but until it’s tested at interpro level it’s a hard one to call,” he said.

“As we know, mistakes at this level pose a whole new world of problems versus mistakes at club and I think the girls who’ve been here before have instilled quite a competitive culture. You presume mistakes are going to happen in rugby it’s the nature of the beast. What the more experienced guys here have done is stressed to the squad that we have to avoid as many mistakes as possible and ensure that any fallout from ones made is mitigated as well.”

The burly former loose forward was excited though, in particular with the most recent fortnight’s preparation.

“There’s an edge there now. The girls are keen, they’re all looking to get involved, be involved, and stamp their own mark. Even the newbies who up until within the last month were watching in silence, they’re vocal now. They’re all vocal now,” Walsh added.

2015 vice captain and 12 Emma Clery steps up this winter in the captain’s role. A clever player, in her sixth campaign, Clery is mindful of the new faces in the backline but took heart from the fact they were talented and largely unseen by interpro opposition too.

“We know these girls, we’ve seen what they can do. The rest of us now make sure we engineer the right opportunities for them to work some magic,” she said.
Interpro one v Leinster plays out at Tuam RFC, kickoff 2pm Saturday. Munster hosts Connacht the week after in Cork at Irish Independent Park for Interpro two, and Galway Corinthians hosts the Ulster clash in week three, December 17.

Connacht Team to Face Leinster:

1.Laura Feely, Glwgns; 2. Ciara OConnor, Glwgns (vc); 3. AnneMarie O’Hora, Cstlbr; 4. Amelie Roux, Glwgns; 5. Mar Sheridan, Tuam; 6. Heather Cary, StMrys; 7. Grainne Egan, StMrys, 8. Nichola Fryday, Tllamr; 9. Jill Draper, Tllamr; 10. Clare Raftery, Glwgns; 11. Ursula Sammon, Glwgns; 12. Emma Clery, Glwgns (c); 13. Shannon Tuohey, Tllamr; 14. Orla Dixon, NUIG; 15. Mairead Coyne, Glwgns. Subs: 16. Eimear Murphy, Carlow; 17. Valerie Mitchell, ULBohs; 18. Caroline Staunton, Cstlbr; 19. Tara Buggie, NUIG; 20. Carol Staunton, StMrys; 21. Shannen Lane, NUIG; 22. Mary Healy, Glwgns; 23. Niamh Connolly, StMrys.

Luke OD

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