"This could be the start of a new legacy for Irish rugby"

With a host of new players, a number of debuts to be made and the first Six Nations with professional contracts under their belts, the team will be looking to make an impact against Wales this Saturday.

"This could be the start of a new legacy for Irish rugby"
Jessica Woodlock
Jessica Woodlock

The team is out for the TikTok Women's Six Nations opening game. With a host of new players, a number of debuts to be made and the first Six Nations with professional contracts under their belts, the Irish rugby team will be looking to make an impact against Wales this Saturday.

At just 18 years old, Ulster prop Sadhbh McGrath has been selected in the front row alongside Neve Jones and Linda Djougang, with captain Nichola Fryday and Sam Monaghan in the second row.

Fryday is set to captain her second Six Nations campaign, something former Irish international Hannah Tyrrell believes will come naturally to her now, having been a year into the role.


"I think Nichola did a really good job last year leading from the front, you know, she had to learn a lot along the way. It's really hard to try and define your role and be a leader on the pitch and take on all these new added stresses as captain and still playing really big performances" said Tyrrell.

"That can be a struggle at times, you know, but I think she'd be well used to that role by now," she told Jessica Woodlock in the latest episode of HerSport's Six Nations Show.

Dorothy Wall, Maeve Óg O’Leary and Brittany Hogan are selected in the back row, with the uncapped O’Dowd, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Christy Haney, Jo Brown, Grace Moore and Hannah O’Connor providing head coach Greg McWilliams with options from the bench.

It's a chance for these women to "put their hands up" according to Tyyrell .


"It's an opportunity for some young girls who have really performed over the last couple of months with their clubs to say you know what, I'm  good enough to play for Ireland," said Tyrrell, who joined the Irish set up back in 2014.

"The likes of Aoife Doyle... Maebh Deely...like they all have an opportunity to put their hand up and say, this jersey,
I want this jersey and I want to keep this jersey by putting on a good performance".

Both Doyle and Deely are set to start at the weekend, with Aoife Dalton and Natasja Behan also set to make their first Six Nations appearances.

Enya Breen is named in the Ireland midfield alongside Nicole Cronin and Molly Scuffil-McCabe. With Dannah O’Brien and Vicky Irwin providing the backline reinforcements on the bench.

The team will come up against a tough Wales side in Cardiff, who narrowly bet Ireland in the RDS during last year's encounter.

"Wales are probably a year ahead of us in terms of they got their contract a couple of months before last year's Six Nations and we really saw the benefit of that with them, they came out firing" said Tyrrell.

"I think they will have that in the back of their minds that they're a team similar to Ireland that gives 100% and doesn't give up until the final whistle".

"Last year, Ireland were winning for the majority of the match until about the last five or six minutes or so.Wales came storming back. And they'll be kind of trying to hold on to those memories and trying to be like, this is ammunition that we have over them on a kind of a mentality side of thing," Tyrrell told HerSport.

Wales are set to be captained by Hannah Jones, a player who has been in that set up for over 8 years and someone who has been "fantastic for Wales in the backline".

"She'll be looking for her team to put in some really big performances" according to Tyrrell.

Wales "bring a lot of intensity and physicality. And you know they've some very, very dangerous players in their backline that if we allow them to get some space, they can do some damage".

As for Ireland's Six Nations run, a successful campaign will include getting three wins out of three in their away games, according to the former Irish international player.

"I think it's fairly obvious that France and England are the two top teams in this tournament and, you know, everyone else in this tournament will be looking to finish in that third place. ...So for Ireland, I think a very successful campaign is to get three wins out of three in their away games and put in some really, really good performances that we can be proud of, against France and England at home".

Big losses to the Irish squad this year come in the form of the "world class" Sevens players, with the likes of Eve Higgins, Stacey Flood and Beibheann Parsons not included in McWilliam's squad.

However its a price that has to be paid according to Tyrrell, with the importance of 2023 for the Seven's players not to be overlooked.

"People might not realise it's a really, really important year for the Irish sevens programme because it's an Olympic qualification year. This team has two more stops on the World Series starting with Hong Kong next weekend. They're so
close to qualifying for the Olympics for the first time" said Tyrrell in HerSport's Six Nations Show.

"While their presence will be massively felt during the Six Nations, to get an Irish women's team to the Olympics would be massive for Irish rugby in general. ..while their absence will be felt in the Six Nations, it's an opportunity for some
young girls who've really performed over the last couple of months".

This TikTok Six Nation's campaign marks the first that the Ireland women's team will face as professional players. They're in a position that no girls playing rugby have "ever had in this country before" according to Tyrrell, who played as an amateur player.

"They'll want to be able to use this opportunity to push on and actually get something out of it. And, you know, I really hope they do that because this could be the start of a new legacy for Irish rugby".

For more on the upcoming games catch the full preview with Hannah Tyrrell and Jessica Woodlock on Spotify, Youtube & wherever you get your podcasts. Keep involved in the conversation with #HerSportSixNations.

The HerSport Six Nations Show is brought to you in association with Opel. Proud Sponsors of Irish Rugby. #DriveOn

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