Interpro series offers emerging talent the chance to impress Ireland coaches - Davitt

'I just cannot wait to get out and play' - long wait for interpro series return finally over
Women's Interprovincial Championship - Ulster v Munster
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Date: Saturday, 27 August Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Watch live stream on BBC Sport website

The return of the women's interprovincial series offers young players the chance to propel themselves into contention for Ireland duty, says ex-Grand Slam winner Grace Davitt.

Provinces will be without Irish internationals with Adam Griggs' side currently in camp ahead of next month's World Cup qualifiers.

But Davitt believes their absence can help the next generation stand out.

"It's a double-edged sword," Davitt told Sportsound Extra Time.

"You'd maybe think that with Irish players out of contention, the level might not be as high.

"But I have no doubt that the players that are there, it'll give them an opportunity to step up to the mark and step up to that leadership role."

With the 2020 inter-pro series and this year's women's All-Ireland League having been cancelled due to the pandemic, several players have been without competitive action since 2019.

The last 18 months have had a devastating impact on the game at this level, but with BBC Sport NI set to stream all three of Ulster's games in the round-robin competition, Davitt believes the return of provincial action presents a significant platform for players to revive their careers.

"There is a lot of high-profile players still in there and there are young girls coming up through the ranks who maybe would have been sitting behind internationals," added former Ulster and Leinster centre Davitt.

"It's a chance for them to put their hand up and actually be seen by the Irish management and say 'look, this is what I can do, you maybe haven't seen me in two years at any level'."

Ulster, who will be without Irish internationals Kathryn Dane, Neve Jones, Claire Boles and Brittany Hogan, open the series against Munster on Saturday at Kingspan Stadium with the northern province searching for their first inter-pro win since 2012, a run of 25 games.

Scrum half Kathryn Dane is one of four Ulster players currently in Ireland camp
Scrum half Kathryn Dane is one of four Ulster players currently in Ireland camp

And while that record naturally places Neill Alcorn's side as underdogs, Davitt believes the results in the 2019 series - in which Ulster lost to Connacht by a single point - is a reflection of the increasingly narrow gaps between the provinces.

"It's a huge game," Davitt said of Ulster's home opener with Munster.

"Munster are a formidable side, they obviously didn't take the inter-pros last time out but they have been there in the previous years, in 2017, and have been so close.

"But we saw scorelines last time, Ulster only lost by a point to Connacht, they were very close to winning that game and we saw Connacht go on to beat Munster, so you can see how close the teams are from those scorelines.

"It's about meshing together as a team and maybe that will be the positive of Covid, that these players have had very little club team training so hopefully there's a lot of clicking between each player."

Davitt, who was part of Ireland's Grand Slam-winning Six Nations team in 2013, added: "Ulster will go to win, I have no doubt that they will. You can see the players in their team and can see the youth of Toni Macartney, Taryn Schutzler and India Daley who were in the Irish schools sevens.

"You have some good players coming through and the senior players like Lauren Magennis, Beth Cregan and Ilse van Staden, an ex-Irish player.

"They'll definitely want to be putting it up to Munster in this first game. It'll be a big, physical game but I have no doubt that they'll bring it."

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