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Tullow ten Dannah O’Brien kicks off historic women’s rugby tour in Japan as Greg McWilliams hands out six debuts for first test

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Dannah O'Brien

Dannah O'Brien

Dannah O'Brien

Tullow’s Dannah O'Brien becomes the latest in a long line of out-half candidates in green as Greg McWilliams’ Irish side kick off their historic inaugural tour in Japan this Saturday.

Ireland, who failed to qualify for this autumn’s World Cup, will field three other debutants in the back-line with Méabh Deely, Natasja Behan, Aoife Dalton forming an inexperienced three-quarters, with Enya Breen shifting to second five-eighths as another play-making option.

Second-row Taryn Schultzer and centre Leah Tarpey will also earn their first caps from the bench for the Saturday showdown against the Sakura Fifteen in Shizuoka.

It has been a breakthrough summer for fullback Deely, who in June made her Ireland Sevens debut at the opening leg of the Rugby Europe Championship in Lisbon, while Behan earns her first cap on the wing having been in the TikTok Women's Six Nations squad earlier this year. Doyle completes the Ireland back three.

Dalton, 19, who along with O'Brien and Tarpey completed their Leaving Certificate in June, starts in midfield alongside Enya Breen, with out-half O'Brien partnering Ailsa Hughes in the half-backs.

Dalton, O'Brien and Tarpey are all part of the Women's National Talent Squad (WNTS) and, having first trained with McWilliams' national panel back in February and then further impressed during the summer programme, earn their opportunity in green this weekend.

If the backs are green, the packs are keen with experience.

Djougang, Neve Jones and Katie O'Dwyer are named to start in the front row, with Fryday and Sam Monaghan selected as the second row pairing. Dorothy Wall, Edel McMahon and Hannah O'Connor complete the Ireland 23.

McWilliams has a number of strong options to come off the bench if required, including Emma Hooban, Chloe Pearse, Christy Haney, Schultzer and Grace Moore up front, with Nicole Cronin, Tarpey and Molly Scuffil-McCabe in the backline.

"Our extended squad of 51 players have worked incredibly hard all summer and we have got through a really pleasing body of work since arriving in Japan last Friday,” said head coach Greg McWilliams after announcing his roster.

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“The players have adapted brilliantly to difficult conditions and it has been a good week of preparation for us.

"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 and we are all looking forward to seeing them pull on the green jersey having worked so hard over the last couple of months.

"Saturday marks another important staging post on our journey as a group and we will come up against a really strong Japan side who are finalising their preparations for the Rugby World Cup. We will learn and grow through this experience and that is invaluable for us."

Saturday's match is live on TG4 from 10.40am Irish time.

IRELAND WOMEN’S Team & Replacements (v Japan Women, First Summer Test, Ecopa Stadium, Saturday, August 20, kick-off 7pm local time/11am Irish time):

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

15. Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht)*

14. Natasja Behan (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)*

13. Aoife Dalton (Tullamore RFC/Leinster)*

12. Enya Breen (TBC/Munster)(14)

11. Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC/Munster)(10)

10. Dannah O'Brien (Tullow RFC/Leinster)*

9. Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)(14)

1. Linda Djougang (TBC/Leinster)(22)

2. Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster)(11)

3. Katie O'Dwyer (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)(10)

4. Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht)(27)(capt)

5. Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby)(9)

6. Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster)(15)

7. Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby)(19)

8. Hannah O'Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)(12)

Replacements:

16. Emma Hooban (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)(11)

17. Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster)(5)

18. Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)(4)

19. Taryn Schultzer (Saracens/Ulster)*

20. Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby)(3)

21. Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster)(20)

22. Leah Tarpey (Tullamore RFC/Leinster)*

23. Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)(2).

*Denotes uncapped player

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