For the first time ever the Irish Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána will join forces to form a Combined Forces side to take on the French Armed Forces Women in Monkstown Rugby Club on Friday afternoon at 12pm.
This historic fixture, scheduled for International Women’s Day, is set to rejuvenate the Irish Defence Forces women's team and bolster the ties with An Garda Síochána both on and off the pitch.
This match is part of a double header, with the Irish Defence Forces rugby side set to take on the French Armed Forces at 2pm.
Speaking to Balls.ie, former international player turned coach, Lieutenant Elaine Anthony said she is looking forward to the challenge that France will bring to this newly formed side, with morale in the squad very high.
A lieutenant with the transport corps, Anthony took coaching over the Defence Forces side last year, when it was going through a phase where it needed a bit of rejuvenation. After much thought about how she could bolster the squad so that it could stand up to the likes of the French Armed Forces rugby team, an encounter with a former player helped Elaine decide how to move forward with the team.
Elaine went to preseason training with Leinster where she met Garda Lorna O’Connor who coaches the Leinster women’s team. As Elaine describes it:
This hatched an idea in my head that if we were to join forces with An Garda Síochána, we would be a pretty strong team
So, Elaine and Lorna set about making it happen, with this match against the French Armed Forces being the result of all their hard work. The squad is full of former Irish internationals with the likes of Niamh Briggs ( a guard), Jenny Finlay and Niamh Ní Dhroma, who will captain the side, alongside a whole host of provincially-capped players.
— Niamh Briggs (@niamhbriggs15) March 5, 2019
With Lieutenant Anthony set to miss out on the match through injury, she has settled into a coaching role alongside Garda Lorna O’Connor. Speaking on how her experience at the international level has helped her settle into this new coaching role:
My experience playing with the international squad has paid dividends, as Niamh Briggs and myself have high standards of what we expect from the other players
While they don’t know a lot about their French counterparts, there has been a little bit of communication between managers and it seems like both sides will be evenly matched, which hopefully leads to an exciting competitive tie.
This is the first match for the Combined Forces side it certainly won’t be their last, with an offer to face the English Royal Air Force in the near future.
The sides will kick off at 12pm in Monkstown and you can follow all the action on the Defence Forces Facebook page. The Defence Forces men's team will also play their French counterparts tomorrow.
All the teams involved in Monkstown will come together before the French sides fly home and take in the Women’s Six Nations match in Donnybrook on Saturday evening.