Leinster Rugby’s Women’s Interprovincial Championship campaign gets underway against Connacht on Saturday at Energia Park (KO 5.30pm).

Supporters can pay at the gate tomorrow for the game that is part of a tripleheader which will begin with the Men’s team in Bank of Ireland Pre-season Friendly action against Coventry at 3pm, followed by the Women’s team at 5.30pm, and then the Leinster U19s v Ulster at 7.45pm.

This season’s Women’s Interprovincial series now has an added playoff phase. The initial group will now be followed by semi-finals based on the group standings followed by a final.

Leinster Women's

This increases the number of games for all teams and Leinster Women’s head coach Ben Armstrong is looking forward to seeing how his squad copes with the added workload.

“We’ve got a good core group returning from last year,” says Armstrong. “All the coaching staff are back again so it’s just looking at what we did last year and how we can improve. Certainly, the newcomers are adding a lot of competition to the squad and competition breeds high standards. That’s exactly what you’re looking for as a coach.”

Ben Armstrong Leinster Women's

He also views the higher number of games as a great opportunity for both playing and coaching staff to further test their abilities at this level.

“It’s going to create new challenges because we’ll be playing teams twice and I don’t think you can leave anything in the cupboard in these ones.

“You’ve got to make sure you’re leaving it all on the pitch and then that’ll test your squad depth as well which is really exciting considering that we feel that we’ve got a little bit deeper this year in the squad and a bit more talent.

“We shipped a bad injury in the last game which would have made a few changes going forward but I expect that to be a little bit more this year. Instead of looking at 23, we’re going to go well deep into the 28s/30s which is exciting news for the whole squad.”

Michelle Claffey

Centre Michelle Claffey has been impressed with the calibre of the players coming through the province’s underage ranks and relishes seeing them compete at the highest level of the game.

Claffey views the new recruits as more important than ever this year as the squad is set to be stretched with the new calendar.

“I’ve been around a long time, I won’t say how many years, but it’s nice to see new faces and new challenges. It pushes everybody on a bit more that they have to work harder,” she says.

Michelle Claffey

“It’s going to be really good for game management and player management. It’s more time, more high-level games for everybody involved. It’s going to require larger squad sizes and a bigger work effort from everyone involved throughout the training.

“I’m really excited about it because of a new bunch of girls, new faces in, fresh talent. You can really see the drive from the underage through as well. We’ve a lot of under 18s who’ve represented Leinster so they’ve been at a higher end of the game. It’s interesting to see them coming through and being so established in the game when they’re very young.”