Source: Mike Lee - KLC Fotos for World Rugby

Celtic Challenge – The Big One

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Edinburgh Rugby v Wolfhounds
Saturday 17 February
Hive Stadium (Saturday 17 February, kick-off 1pm)

The game in Edinburgh brings the top two sides together. Unbeaten Wolfhounds have to travel to take on second-placed Edinburgh Rugby.

This is the opening round of the playoffs, so final outcomes wait till later, but the contest presents a chance for both sides to stake a first claim on the trophy.

Inevitably the head coaches are pulling out all the stops. One stop Scottish fans may not have realised their organ possesses is Rhona Lloyd (pictured above), who is suddenly produced out of the magician’s hat, or perhaps smuggled out of GB 7s den (that’s three metaphors jammed together!). If she is allowed off the bench, she will make her debut for her native city. But only if! As Lloyd appears, so Lisa Thomson disappears. They’ll miss her kicking skills.

Claire Cruikshank’s side saw off the other Irish side, Clovers, with a bonus point, but this will be a different test. Wolfhounds’ 5 out of 5 points to a teaky unit that is hard to break down and keep down. Cruikshank has made minimal changes: Briar McNamara is restored to inside-centre; Fi McIntosh strengthens the pack as she returns to the second row. The one other prospective debutant alongside Lloyd is Zoe Turner at scrum-half.

Neill Alcorn, head coach of the Wolfhounds, has made four changes: Christy Haney comes in at tight-head, and the Saracen, Grace Moore, wears No 8. Out behind Ellen Boylan starts on the left wing and Leah Tarpey at No 13.

One slight difference in approach is seen in the clubs the players hail from. The hosts offer three from PWR clubs, the visitors only one. But that is the whole point of the enterprise: the emphasis is laid strongly on home-grown talent. The elite squad can look after itself for the present.

The capital side lie a whole four points behind their opponents, so are under no illusions about the task they are taking on. But they have had sufficient success in recent weeks to feel really buoyed.

A brief reminder: the six teams have divided into two pools, based on earlier results. Edinburgh find themsleves taking on both the Irish sides in Pool A.

Teams:
Edinburgh Rugby
15. Nicole Marlow (Cardiff Met), 14. Nicole Flynn (University of Edinburgh), 13. Emma Orr (Heriot’s/ Biggar), 12. Briar McNamara (Watsonian), 11. Cieron Bell (University of Edinburgh), 10. Sarah Denholm (captain, University of Edinburgh), 9. Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning), 1. Panashe Muzambe (Exeter Chiefs), 2. Millie Whitehouse (University of Edinburgh), 3. Katie Lindsay (Corstorphine Cougars), 4. Fiona McIntosh (Saracens), 5. Adelle Ferrie (Corstorphine Cougars),
6. Merryn Gunderson (Corstorphine Cougars), 7. Alex Stewart (Corstorphine Cougars), 8. Freya Walker (Watsonian)

Bench:
16. Aila Ronald (University of Edinburgh), 17. Poppy Fletcher (University of Edinburgh), 18. Molly Poolman (Watsonian), 19. Nathasha Logan (University of Edinburgh), 20. Gemma Bell (Hartpury University), 21. Zoe Turner (Corstorphine Cougars), 22. Hannah Ramsay (Corstorphine Cougars), 23. Rhona Lloyd (GB Sevens)

Wolfhounds
15. Ava Ryder (Connacht), 14. Katie Corrigan (Leinster), 13. Leah Tarpey (Leinster), 12. Katie Heffernan (Leinster), 11. Ellen Boylan (Munster), 10. Nikki Caughey (Leinster), 9. Jade Gaffney (Leinster), 1. Aoife Moore (Leinster), 2. Meabh Clenaghan (Ulster), 3. Christy Haney (Leinster), 4. Eimear Corri (Leinster), 5. Hannah O’Connor (Leinster), 6. Claire Boles (Ulster), 7. Molly Boyne (captain, Leinster), 8. Grace Moore (Saracens)

Bench:
16. India Daley (Ulster), 17. Linda Djougang (Leinster), 18. Sophie Barrett (Ulster), 19. Fiona Tuite (Ulster), 20. Keelin Brady (Ulster), 21. Katie Whelan (Leinster), 22. Abby Moyles (Ulster), 23. Kelly McCormill (Ulster)

Officials:
Referee: David Young
ARs: Calum Lazenby and David Changleng with thanks to rugbyreferee.net

The other game taking place the same day is Glasgow Warriors v Brython Thunder at Scotstoun, Glasgow.

As usual, the games will be transmitted live and free by rugbypass.tv

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