There is a clear fear – or should that be excitement? – of the unknown as the first Under-18 Girls Interprovincial Championship kicks-off on Saturday with Leinster, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, taking to the road to play Ulster at City of Armagh’s Palace Grounds on Saturday evening KO 17.30.

Coach Aoife Thompson takes charge of a talented bunch of players, who have worked their way through the summer to make the final cut.  
There is a strong core of 16 players on board this season that come with the benefit of experience from last season.
In addition, Tullamore’s Megan Burns is an exciting prospect at out-half and the decision for Naas’s Casey O’Brien to move from centre to prop looks like a real positive.
Leinster supplied five of the dozen girls committed to Ireland’s bronze medal finish in the U18 European Cup Sevens in France last weekend.
The main success story was the try-scoring exploits of Portlaoise’s Eimear Corri, who struck for six tries in as many matches.
Kathy Baker, Katie Heffernan, Rugby Keating and Sabrina Kennedy also gained invaluable experience, although Heffernan and Keating are unavailable for the first of three fixtures.
Leinster will also have to do without the injured quartet of Eve Higgins, Grace Kelly, Anna Doyle and Ali Miley.
The uptake in Girls rugby led to Ulster settling on a 26 strong squad drawn from seven clubs with six from Cavan club Virginia, five from Monaghan and four from Enniskillen, reflecting how the grass roots game is being embraced province-wide.
Malone’s Neve Jones has been appointed as their captain after a summer-long screening process in which the squad was whittled down with Ireland Sevens stars in forwards Claire Boles and Ellie Rix and back Brittany Hogan as well as vice-captain Vicky Irwin central to their game plan.  
Leinster will be on guard against a dangerous foe in what is a difficult competition to make any reasonable prediction about.  
“For the last year two years, we have played a one-day blitz where we played two of the other provinces, each for 20-minute halfs. The following week, we’ve played one province in a full match.  
“It is on the Player Development Pathway,” said coach Aoife Thompson.

“I feel it is about improving players. They’ve been introduced to the game. They obviously have a taste for it. We want to show them the next level.
“We’ve tried to improve the conditioning and nutrition and find a balance between improving players and getting a team performance on the day.
“We’ve had great support from the Leinster branch,” she said.
“The addition of a strength and conditioning coach Peter Shaw and physio Darragh Curley have added to and benefitted the squad hugely, both for the players education and their ability to perform on the pitch.”
Leinster U18 Girls Fixtures.

17th September (Saturday): Ulster v Leinster U18 Girls, Armagh RFC, Time 17.30

24th September (Saturday): Leinster U18 Girls v Munster, Seapoint RC, Time 18.00

1st October (Saturday): Leinster U18 Girls v Connacht, Westmanstown, Time 13.00
Leinster U18 Girls, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to play Ulster at Armagh RFC, KO 17.30.
15. Emma Chamberlain (Garda RFC)
14. Kathy Baker (The King’s Hospital School)
13. Niamh Doran (Gorey RFC)
12. Louise Scully (Portlaoise RFC)
11. Eimear Corri (Portlaoise RFC) Vice-Captain
10. Megan Burns (Tullamore RFC)
9. Hannah Rose Buckley (Wicklow RFC)
1. Caoimhe Molloy (Gorey RFC) Captain
2. Moya Griffin (Tullamore RFC)
3. Casey O’Brien (Naas RFC)
4. Olivia Daly Tallon (Gorey RFC)
5. Judy Bobbett (Old Belvedere RFC)
6. Tess Meade (Ardee RFC)
7. Rachael Dunne (Tullamore RFC)
8. Daisy Earle (Gorey RFC)
Jess Keating (Old Belvedere RFC)
Sarah Doyle (Enniscorthy RFC)
Eadaoin Liddy (Mullingar RFC)
Liz Brophy (Portlaoise RFC)
Aine Reilly (Ardee RFC)
Nicola McGrath (Gorey RFC)
Katelynn Doran (Cill Dara RFC)
Bethany Sharpe (Tullow RFC)