Six Nations: 18-year-old Katie Corrigan set to debut for Ireland against France

Beibhinn Parsons and Eve Higgins both start in the backline with Edel McMahon named as captain as Sam Monaghan misses out through injury

Katie Corrigan (right) is set for an Ireland debut during this weekend's Six Nations clash with France. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Ireland women’s senior coach John McKee heaped praise on Hannah O’Connor after she was named in the starting line-up for Saturday afternoon’s opening round Six Nations clash against France at Stade Marie-Marvingt (kick-off 2.15pm Irish time).

Originally selected as one of seven training panellists for the tournament – and not officially part of the 35-strong squad that was announced by head coach Scott Bemand last month – the Galway native has knuckled down to elevate herself to the first 15 for this weekend’s visit to Le Mans. Despite both players being better known for playing at the base of the scrum, O’Connor and Dorothy Wall will now form a secondrow partnership for Ireland’s maiden game of 2024.

“Hannah has been a really strong player for us over a number of campaigns. Missed out on the WXV group, when probably we were looking at bringing some young players on. Hannah played strongly in the Celtic Challenge and showed strong leadership around that Wolfhounds team that was successful in that competition,” McKee said of O’Connor.

“She has really worked hard. She came into the camp as a panellist, worked really, really hard. Through her form and through her leadership around the camp, she has got her start.”


During their victories over Kazakhstan and Spain in last year’s successful WXV 3 tournament in Dubai, Wall found herself alongside co-captain Sam Monaghan in the Irish secondrow. The latter has become a mainstay of the side since making her debut in a World Cup qualifier against Spain in September 2021, but McKee confirmed yesterday that Monaghan is still working her way back from a recent head injury she sustained while on Premiership Women’s Rugby duty with her club Gloucester-Hartpury.

“She has already been on a return-to-play while she has been with us through the camps. We were hoping that she would be available for this week, but she’s not quite ready. At a push we probably could have gotten her on the park, but in the bigger picture, we’ll give her the extra week.

“She’s here with the group in a leadership role, but as you can see from the team, won’t be taking part on the weekend. We’d expect her to be fully fit for the second round.”

Although teenager Katie Corrigan will be making her test debut on the rightwing in Le Mans, there is a relatively familiar look to this Irish side overall. Of the match day 23 that has been selected for the game, 16 of them featured in the final round encounter with Spain in the WXV 3 last October.

The level of opposition is expected to be much stronger this weekend, however, with France occupying third spot in the world rankings. When the two sides met in the 2023 Six Nations at Musgrave Park, Ireland fell to a convincing 53-3 defeat – despite playing a large chunk of the game with an extra player.

It is anticipated that Ireland will come under intense pressure again this weekend and while he acknowledged they have been looking at the game from all angles, McKee is hopeful the work that Declan Danaher has done with the squad as defence coach will be in evidence on Saturday.

“We’ve had a lot of focus right across our game. We’re not putting all our preparations into one area or another area. Defence is a big part of what will be our success,” McKee added.

“Bringing Declan Danaher on board as an assistant coach with a specific responsibility in that area has been a huge boost to our preparation and I think we’ll start to see some of the benefits on Saturday.”

“We are all very excited to get our Guinness Women’s Six Nations campaign under way and we come into this weekend ready to put a confident performance out there,” said Bemand.

“We have had a good block of preparation with players returning and we are ready to compete.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the hard work come together on Saturday and what a place to kick start our Six Nations, in Stade Marie-Marvingt.”

Ireland: Lauren Delany; Katie Corrigan, Eve Higgins, Aoife Dalton, Béibhinn Parsons; Nicole Fowley, Aoibheann Reilly; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Christy Haney; Dorothy Wall, Hannah O’Connor; Aoife Wafer, Edel McMahon (capt), Brittany Hogan. Replacements: Sarah Delaney, Niamh O’Dowd, Sadhbh McGrath, Fiona Tuite, Grace Moore, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Dannah O’Brien, Méabh Deely.

France: E Boulard; K Arbey, N Konde, G Vernier, M Menager; L Queyroi, P Bourdon Sansus; A Deshaye, A Sochat, A Khalfaoui; M Feleu, M Fall; C Escudero, G Hermet, R Menager. Replacements: E Riffonneau, A Mwayembe, C Joyeaux, K Zago, E Gros, A Chambon, L Tuy, M Bourgeois.