Ireland name team to take on France in second round of women’s Six Nations

‘Last week was a disappointing start to the campaign for us but we turned the page quickly and were honest with ourselves’

Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams has made five changes and a positional switch from the side that lost 31-5 to Wales for Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations Championship clash with France at Musgrave Park (3.15, live on Virgin Media, BBC iPlayer).

Exeter Chiefs hooker Clara Nielson and Kathryn Buggy, a tight head prop with Gloucester-Hartpury club are in line to make their respective Ireland debuts from the bench, having qualified to play through the IQ (Irish Qualified) programme.

Vicky Irwin, who plays her club rugby with the Sale Sharks, replaces Enya Breen, whose knee injury has unfortunately ruled her out of the remainder of the tournament. Tullow native Dannah O’Brien makes her first Six Nations start, having made her debut on last year’s summer tour to Japan. She is preferred to Nicole Cronin at outhalf with the latter dropping to the bench.

McWilliams said of his decision: “She’s got a very strong kicking game, she’s very skilful. You just want her to be herself, to understand what she’s good at, you want to let her play. She’s really talented, relatively inexperienced but I believe she is the right person to start at 10 this week, as do the players and the staff.


“She’s growing all the time. I’m looking forward to her going out and sticking to a good plan that we have for the French and if we do that, you’ll see Dannah control the game really well.”

There are three changes to the pack. Linda Djougang moves from tight head to loosehead in place of last weekend’s debutant Sadhbh McGrath with the Ulster teenager named among the replacements. Christy Haney starts in the number three jersey. Grace Moore and Deirbhile Nic a Bháird are promoted to the run-on team at blindside flanker and number eight respectively.

McWilliams said of the challenge that his team faces: “Last week was a disappointing start to the campaign for us but we turned the page quickly and were honest with ourselves. We know this journey is going to take time and require patience, and we are working hard as a group to learn those lessons and make positive progress every time we step on the field.

“Saturday is another opportunity for us to do that and returning to Musgrave Park is an exciting prospect for us all. The support of our home crowd, family and friends is so important to us, and with the backing of the Irish people, we can make strides in the right direction.

“We learned a huge amount against Wales and the true test is how the players respond. As a head coach it’s lovely to sit back and watch a group of players grow this week and it’s been incredibly positive, they understand it’s a massive challenge. I’m looking forward to them going out and putting in a good show.”

IRELAND: Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC/Munster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Vicky Irwin (Sale Sharks/Ulster), Natasja Behan (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster); Dannah O’Brien (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union RFC/Leinster); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster), Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster); Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht) (capt), Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby); Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster), Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby), Deirbhile Nic a Bháird (Old Belvedere RFC/Munster).

Replacements: Clara Nielson (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby), Sadhbh McGrath (City of Derry/Cooke RFC/Ulster), Kathryn Buggy (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Anna McGann (Railway Union RFC/Connacht), Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer