Women's Six Nations 2016: Ireland make eight changes for Italy game

Ulster's Nikki Caughey
Nikki Caughey will start at fly-half for Ireland against Italy
Women's Six Nations: Ireland v Italy
Venue: Donnybrook, Dublin Date: Sunday, 13 March Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Coverage: Match report on BBC Sport website

Ireland women's coach Tom Tierney has reacted to the defeat by England by making eight changes for Sunday's Six Nations game against Italy.

Skipper Niamh Briggs and Sene Naoupu are the only backs to be retained, with Briggs switching to centre in Dublin.

Mary Healy and Ulster's Nikki Caughey form a new half-back pairing, while Kim Flood, Liz Burke and Alison Miller are also drafted into the backs.

Lindsay Peat, Elaine Anthony and Ciara Cooney are called up to the forwards.

The backs changes see Elise O'Byrne-White, Aine Donnelly, Mairead Coyne, Nora Stapleton and Larissa Muldoon losing their starting roles.

Forwards Ruth O'Reilly, Claire Molloy and Paula Fitzpatrick drop to the replacements, while Sophie Spence switches from lock to number eight.

Flood and Burke to make debuts

Full-back Flood and wing Burke will win their first caps and scrum-half Healy will make her first Six Nations start.

Up front, prop Peat earns her first Ireland start and Elaine Anthony will make her Six Nations debut when she partners Marie-Louise Reilly in the second row.

Claire McLaughlin, an unused substitute against England back in November, will be hoping to win her first cap from the bench.

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After winning their opening game against Wales, Ireland slipped to defeats against France and England.

Tierney said: "We have been strong in passages of our play but mistakes proved to be costly.

"We've made a number of changes this week and this is to allow players the opportunity to show us what they can do."

Italy lost their opener 39-0 against France but a 33-24 defeat by England was followed by a 22-7 win over Scotland.

Ireland: Kim Flood; Liz Burke, Niamh Briggs, Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller; Nikki Caughey, Mary Healy; Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Ailis Egan; Elaine Anthony, Marie-Louise Reilly; Ciara Cooney, Ciara Griffin, Sophie Spence.

Replacements: Zoe Grattage, Ruth O'Reilly, Fiona Reidy, Claire Molloy, Paula Fitzpatrick, Larissa Muldoon, Nora Stapleton, Claire McLaughlin.

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