Tuesday, February 28, 2023

TULLOW’S Dannah O’Brien has today been named by Ireland Head Coach Greg McWilliams in a 32-player squad for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, as preparations step up a gear for the 2023 campaign opener away in Wales on Saturday, 25 March.

Dannah O’Brien has been named in the Ireland squad for the upcoming Six Nations
Photo: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

O’Brien, who was recently named as one of the winners for the upcoming Carlow Sports Star Awards, was praised by former Ireland star Fiona Hayes at the Virgin Media launch ahead of the Men’s Six Nations last month.

“I was lucky to go up to the high performance centre before Christmas and have a look at their session with the contracted players. She (Dannah O’Brien) absolutely blew me away,” she noted.

“For her age, her ability to kick. She is just a natural kicker. She has the confidence to kick. The grubbers through. Little chips through. Nothing fazes her. Definitely in that out-half position I can see her cemented in that unless injury happens.”

The former Tullow player who plays for Old Belvedere now is still only a teenager. Hayes recognises this.

“She is young and has the ability to control a game. I watched her with Leinster last week. She controlled her path and she is a really, really exciting player to watch. Seeing her up at camp and trying everything, being really comfortable with the players around her, having that control on the gain line or playing deep, she has it all. The more she is training in that High Performance Center, the more her game is going to grow and grow.

“Her kicking from the tee is the best I have seen since Niamh Briggs. She is well able to leather the ball. I have played at all types of levels, seen all types of out-halves especially those who have grown up kicking the ball, those who have started rugby later so it is not always the first option when you are looking at a ten, you might not always be looking at the kicking game. The way the game is going now, she seems to have all the attributes.”

Following the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship and the recently concluded Celtic Challenge tournament, McWilliams and the Ireland coaching team have confirmed their panel for the upcoming Championship, with eight uncapped players included in the squad.

Forwards Niamh O’Dowd, Sadhbh McGrath, Fiona Tuite and Molly Boyne have all impressed for the Combined Provinces XV during their unbeaten Celtic Challenge campaign and earn a first Ireland call up, while uncapped IQ Rugby duo Kathryn Buggy and Clara Neilson are also included.

Ella Roberts was one of the stars of the Celtic Challenge campaign and off the back of her performances for the Combined Provinces, is one of two uncapped backs in the squad alongside Harlequins scrum-half Emma Swords.

Having assumed the captaincy for last year’s Six Nations, Nichola Fryday will once again skipper the side from the second row, with the likes of Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Sam Monaghan and Hannah O’Connor providing valuable experience in McWilliams’ pack.

There is an exciting look to Ireland’s backline options with O’Brien, Méabh Deely, Aoife Dalton and Tash Behan, who all made their Test debuts during the historic Summer Tour of Japan, set to feature in their first Six Nations campaign.

In addition to the 32 players included in the Six Nations squad, McWilliams has named 12 players in a wider training panel who will also assemble at the IRFU High Performance Centre this weekend for a two-day camp: Mary Healy, Megan Collis, Andrea Stock, Emma Hooban, India Daley, Claire Bennett, Katie Whelan, Leah Tarpey, Kayla Waldron, Ella Durkan, Clare Gorman and Aoife Corey.

Ireland open their Championship away to Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, 25 March (Kick-off 2.15pm, live on RTÉ2), before facing France at Musgrave Park in Cork on Saturday, 1 April (Kick-off 3.15pm, live on Virgin Media).

After a down week, the campaign resumes with a trip to Parma to go head-to-head with Italy on Saturday, 15 April (Kick-off 4.45pm, live on Virgin Media), and then McWilliams’ side are back home in Cork for a showdown with England on Saturday, 22 April (Kick-off 2.15pm, live on RTÉ2).

Ireland conclude the Six Nations against Scotland at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh on Saturday, 29 April (Kick-off 7.30pm, live on Virgin Media).

Commenting on the squad announcement, Head Coach McWilliams said: “There is a great sense of anticipation and excitement leading into the Six Nations. We are very excited about the group of players who will represent Ireland in the upcoming Championship and certainly the Celtic Challenge preparation has been vital for our development.

“We have identified players who are ready for international rugby and we have had the opportunity to work with those players over the last five weeks, with that contact time incredibly valuable as we build the depth and strength of the group. There is an exciting blend of youth and experience and these players are fit for Test rugby.

“We will work exceptionally hard over the coming weeks in preparation for the opening weekend and while we are aware of the challenges ahead of us, we are excited to get to task.”

McWilliams has also confirmed his Coaching Team for the 2023 Championship with Niamh Briggs (Backs Coach) and Denis Fogarty (Scrum Coach) continuing in their roles alongside McWilliams and John McKee (Senior Coach).

Looking ahead to the Six Nations, Ireland captain Fryday added: “We’re really excited to get the Six Nations underway, as it will be our first campaign together as a group since the Tour of Japan, which provided us with an invaluable platform to build together as a squad moving forward.

“The Celtic Challenge has granted so many players access to quality game time in recent weeks, and this coupled with the game time the UK-based players have had in the Premiership in recent months, will serve us well moving into the opening Rounds of the Six Nations.

“It is always an exciting time of year and we’re hugely motivated as a group to build on the positive aspects of last season and continue to grow and evolve under Greg and the coaching team. It is brilliant to see eight uncapped players come into the group, as we are always striving to build squad depth and the value of the Women’s Interprovincial Championship and Celtic Challenge is there for all to see.

“We are really looking forward to returning to Cork for two huge home matches, as the support we received at Musgrave Park last year was incredible.”


Tickets for Ireland’s home matches at Musgrave Park are available to purchase via Ticketmaster.ie here.


Ireland Squad, TikTok Women’s Six Nations:

Forwards (18):

Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)*

Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke RFC/Ulster)*

Kathryn Buggy (Gloucester-Hartbury/IQ Rugby)*

Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)

Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)

Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartbury/Ulster)

Clara Nielson (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby)*

Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere RFC/Munster)

Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht)(captain)

Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartbury/IQ Rugby)

Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster)*

Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)

Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster)

Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby)

Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College RFC/Munster)

Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht)

Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster)

Molly Boyne (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)*


Backs (14):

Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)

Emma Swords (Harlequins/IQ Rugby)*

Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)

Dannah O’Brien (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)

Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster)

Enya Breen (Blackrock College RFC/Munster)

Aoife Wafer (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)

Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)

Vicky Irwin (Sale Sharks/Ulster)

Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht)

Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC/Munster)

Natasja Behan (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)

Ella Roberts (Wicklow RFC/Leinster)*

Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby).

*denotes uncapped player


Ireland Coaching Team and Management:

Greg McWilliams – Head Coach

John McKee – Senior Coach

Alana Gattinger – Programme Manager

Denis Fogarty – Scrum Coach

Niamh Briggs – Backs Coach

Andy Weir – Baggage Master

Emma Brennan – Performance Nutritionist

Roisin Murphy – National Team Physio

Matt Cosgrove – Team Doctor

Cian O’Brien – Performance Analyst

Ed Slattery – Head of Athletic Performance

Ryan Bailey – Media and Communications.


Ireland Fixtures:

Wales v Ireland, Saturday 25 March, Cardiff Arms Park, 2.15pm

Ireland v France, Saturday 1 April, Musgrave Park, 3.15pm

Italy v Ireland, Saturday 15 April, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 4.45pm

Ireland v England, Saturday 22 April, Musgrave Park, 2.15pm

Scotland v Ireland, Saturday 29 April, DAM Health Stadium, 7.30pm.

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