England women tackle ever improving Ireland
February 15, 2002

England face Ireland in the second round of the women's Six Nations this Sunday at 2:30pm at Sixways Stadium in Worcester. England, as Grand Slam champions every year since 1999, are odds-on favourites to win, though the Irish women's side could provide some surprises.

"Ireland are a bit of an unknown quantity, having withdrawn from the tournament in 2000 and then unable to play last year due to foot and mouth", explains England's Head Coach Geoff Richards. "We only beat Wales 18-0 last year and Ireland's narrow 13-9 loss to Wales in the first round means that we can expect a hard game. We know they will come out with the usual fierce, passionate Irish attitude. Keeping our form and playing at the top of our game is crucial to our Six Nations campaign."

Richards has made a number of changes to the squad that beat Scotland 35-8 in Edinburgh two weeks ago, in an effort to give match experience and opportunity to more squad players in preparation for the crunch fixtures against France and in the World Cup this May in Barcelona.

Sharon Whitehead of Richmond starts at loose-head prop, after winning her first cap for England coming off the bench against the Scots. Other changes in the pack see Jenny Phillips of Richmond and Clare Frost of Saracens replace Georgia Stevens and Gill Burns, with Susie Appleby of Clifton being given the opportunity to run things from outside half.

In the other women's Six Nations fixtures this weekend Wales host France at Bridgend tonight (Friday 15th Feb., KO 7:15pm) and Scotland travel to Palma de Mallorca to play Spain on Sunday. France will be strong favourites to win tonight after their impressive 24-0 defeat of Spain in the first round, whilst Wales will be struggling to find better form than they displayed in their scrappy and tight win against Ireland. Spain against Scotland is much harder to call. The two sides are ranked 6th and 5th respectively for the forthcoming World Cup, and both sides will be stinging after early defeats to their main rivals. It should be a hum-dinger in Mallorca!

England squad to play vs Wales at 2:30pm on Sunday 17th February 2002 at Sixways Stadium, Worcester:

1. Sharon Whitehead (Richmond)
2. Amy Garnett (Saracens)
3. Maxine Edwards (Saracens)
4. Jenny Sutton (Richmond)
5. Karen Henderson (Clifton)
6. Jenny Phillips (Richmond)
7. Helen Clayton (Saracens)
8. Clare Frost (Saracens)
9. Jo Yapp (Worcester)
10. Susie Appleby (Clifton)
11. Chris Diver (Richmond)
12. Assunta De Biase (Saracens)
13. Sue Day (Wasps)
14. Nicky Crawford (Worcester)
15. Paula George (Wasps) - Captain

16. Anne O'Flynn (Waterloo)
17. Ness Huxford (Wasps)
18. Georgia Stevens (Clifton)
19. Gill Burns (Waterloo)
20. Shelley Rae (Wasps)
21. Selena Rudge (Clifton)
22. Emily Feltham (Richmond)

England 'A' play Wales 'A' on 11am on Saturday 16th February at the South
Police Grounds in Bridgend, Wales.

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