| 14.6°C Belfast

Nicole Cronin retains place at scrum-half for Ireland's key clash with France

Nicole Cronin and Leah Lyons will start Ireland's crucial Women's Rugby World Cup clash with France on Thursday.

Scrum-half Cronin made her Test debut in the 24-14 win over Japan, and has retained her place for the Pool C decider against the French in Dublin.

Lyons has edged out Cliodhna Moloney to start at hooker, having impressed off the bench against Japan.

Head coach Tom Tierney admitted Ireland must treat Thursday's clash as a knockout affair, with the winner securing their spot in the semi-finals.

"It's a cup final tomorrow night, with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs, so we want the players to go out there and give it everything," said Tierney. "It won't be easy, but with the crowd behind them, they have the ability to claim a place in the final four."

Captain Claire Molloy and front-rower Lindsay Peat will both win their third successive starts in the tournament.

Skipper Molloy reverts to openside flanker with Ciara Griffin and Paula Fitzpatrick completing the back-row.

Jenny Murphy and Sene Naoupu will form a potent centre pairing, with Hannah Tyrrell, Alison Miller and Nora Stapleton comprising the back-three.

France have quickly established themselves as one of the tournament's danger sides, with two thumping victories so far.

After hammering Japan 72-14 the French then backed that up by swatting Australia aside 48-0.

And Ireland boss Tierney admitted his side are well aware of the extent of the challenge they will face.

Tierney insisted, however, that Ireland will draw confidence from their 13-10 win over Les Bleues in this year's Six Nations.

"We've had lots of tough games against France over the years and we know tomorrow evening is going to be no different," said Tierney.

"They have looked really good in their opening two games of the tournament and they'll be coming into this game full of confidence."

Ireland Women's team to play France in Dublin on Thursday: H Tyrrell (Leinster), E Considine (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), S Naoupu (Harlequins), A Miller (Connacht), N Stapleton (Leinster), N Cronin (Munster), L Peat (Leinster), L Lyons (Munster), A Egan, S Spence, M Reilly (all Leinster), C Griffin (Munster), C Molloy (Bristol, captain), P Fitzpatrick (Leinster). Replacements: C Moloney (Leinster), R O'Reilly, C O'Connor (both Connacht), A Baxter (Ulster), H O'Brien (Munster), L Muldoon (Ulster), K Fitzhenry (Leinster), L Galvin (Munster).