Outhalf Dannah O’Brien among four new caps in Ireland side for historic Japan Test

Greg McWilliams has named his side for the opening Test in Fukuroi City on Saturday

Ireland women’s head coach Greg McWilliams has named four uncapped players in his starting line-up for the historic summer tour encounter against Japan at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi City on Saturday (kick-off 7pm local time/11am Irish time).

Due to a number of notable absentees, McWilliams brought several international newcomers on the flight for this two-Test series – the first of its kind for an Irish women’s side. While Ailsa Hughes, Enya Breen and 2015 Six Nations winner Aoife Doyle bring plenty of experience to the back line, Tullow’s Dannah O’Brien will make her bow in the pivotal outhalf position.

The latest product of the Tullamore underage system – which has produced Hughes and Ireland skipper Nichola Fryday in recent years – Aoife Dalton is named at outside centre alongside Cork native Breen. Meanwhile, joining Doyle in the backrow are Blackrock College duo Méabh Deely and Natasja Behan.

It is unlikely that this quartet will be the only debutants in the game, given Taryn Schultzer and Leah Tarpey are also named on the bench for the first of two showdowns with the Sakura XV.

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While there is a fresh look to the backs, McWilliams has been able to call upon a wealth of experience up front. Seven of the eight forwards who started the dramatic final round victory over Scotland in this year’s Six Nations are retained, with team captain Fryday once again joined in the secondrow by Sam Monaghan.

Dorothy Wall, Edel McMahon and Hannah O’Connor return to the backrow, but there is one alteration to the frontrow from that nail-biting success over the Scots in Belfast. Whereas Linda Djougang and Neve Jones remain at loosehead prop and hooker respectively, Athenry’s Katie O’Dwyer takes over from Christy Haney at tighthead.

Haney is named among the replacements, however, where Emma Hooban and Chloe Pearse also provide frontrow cover. Grace Moore joins her Saracens club-mate Schultzer in reserve, while Nicole Cronin and Molly Scuffil-McCabe will also be valuable options off the bench.

Speaking in advance of this first clash with the Japanese, McWilliams said:

“It is a hugely exciting time for everyone involved in the programme as we prepare to face Japan in these two summer Tests and for us, it’s all about hard work, development and opportunity.

“With that in mind, it is exciting to include a number of young players this weekend. We are all looking forward to seeing them pull on the green jersey, having worked so hard over the last couple of months.”

IRELAND: Méabh Deely; Natasja Behan, Aoife Dalton, Enya Breen, Aoife Doyle; Dannah O’Brien, Ailsa Hughes; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Katie O’Dwyer; Nichola Fryday, Sam Monaghan; Dorothy Wall, Edel McMahon, Hannah O’Connor.

Replacements: Emma Hooban, Chloe Pearse, Christy Haney, Taryn Schultzer, Grace Moore, Nicole Cronin, Leah Tarpey, Molly Scuffil-McCabe.