22 May, 10:29
Munster Rugby recently attended Rockwell College to host a skills session for their Junior Cup players.
O'Sullivan, from Cobh, has left his five uncapped players on bench duty with the starting line-up as strong as any Ireland has fielded over the past number of years.
The back-line sees the return of Munster's stand-out centre Patrique Kelly, who hasn't played since taking a year out after the 2006 World Cup, while the positioning of Belton at full-back means Ireland will be strong on the counter-attack. Former Munster winger Lynne Cantwell starts out wide and Munster captain Marie Barrett retains her place in the front row.
Also included in the starting line-up is Munster flanker Eimear O'Sullivan while experienced scrum half Louise Beamish, from Ballincollig, is on the bench. Completing the southern province's large contingent are promising young Clonmel duo Niamh Briggs and Kate O'Loughlin who are both in line for their first caps.
John O'Sulllivan is happy with the overall mix of the squad. "We have a starting team, while still young, are very experienced on the international stage and it is obviously great to welcome back our captain Sarahjane Belton who hasn't played any serious rugby since we played Italy last year. She has worked extremely hard to get back after suffering with a very painful back injury for the last 10 months. We're also delighted to see Patrique Kelly back and Tania Rosser who gave birth to her son Serge in September. They epitomise the character of all the players on the squad who make huge personal sacrifices to represent their country."
He added that despite beating Italy last year, Ireland are under no illusions ahead of their opening game. "We are expecting a very strong challenge from the Italian team. We know how tough they can be, they have some very good players and they pushed us very hard in Rome last year. We are obviously looking for a good performance but our target this week is to simply win the game."
Ireland team to play Italy, 2.30pm, Friday February 1st, St Mary's RFC.
Sarahjane Belton (captain), Lynne Cantwell, Patrique Kelly, Shannon Houston, Grace Davitt, Joanne O'Sullivan, Tania Rosser, Fiona Coghlan, Jess Limbert, Marie Barrett, Caroline Mahon, Germaine Healy, Eimear O'Sullivan, Sinead Ryan, Orla Brennan.
Subs: Gillian Bourke, Yvonne Nolan, Kate O'Loughlin, Louise Austin, Louise Beamish, Niamh Briggs, Amy Davis.