Ben Brady/INPHO Greg McWilliams' return to action today.
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Ireland players to watch as the 2023 Women's Six Nations kicks off
Greg McWilliams’ side open their campaign away to Wales this afternoon.

IRELAND OPEN THEIR 2023 Women’s Six Nations campaign against Wales today.

Kick-off at Cardiff Arms Park is 2.15pm and the game will be live on RTÉ 2.

Greg McWilliams’ side are seeking an improvement on last year’s fourth-placed finish, and a good start across the water is necessary. Their home games at Musgrave Park are against Top Two England and France, while they’ll target other trips to Italy and Scotland. 

The recent introduction of professional contracts should work in their favour, but Ireland are without their Sevens stars, including Beibhinn Parsons, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Stacey Flood as they chase the Olympic dream.

Others must step up to the mark, with a youthful XV in place for today. The average number of caps among the starting team is 10.9.

As this new era continues and further Test experience is built up, here’s a look at some players to keep an eye on.

Enya Breen

enya-breen Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Enya Breen. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Breen is just 23, but is one of the most experienced members of Ireland’s all home-based backline. She’s set to earn her 17th cap against Wales, and only Nicole Cronin has more senior international appearances under her belt.

The Cork star is named at 12, having battled back into contention after injury, but can also play 10. Breen is a born leader, and her kicking game is a big boost to Ireland. While she missed the bulk of Leinster’s interprovincial campaign, she excelled for her new club Blackrock College through their march to All-Ireland League glory.

The former UL Bohemians player also featured for the Combined Provinces in the recent Celtic Challenge competition, and will be targeting a big Six Nations showing.

Sam Monaghan

sam-monaghan-on-the-attack Akito Iwamoto / INPHO Sam Monaghan. Akito Iwamoto / INPHO / INPHO

Sam Monaghan earned the nickname ‘Sammy Bill’ during last year’s Six Nations. It is of course in reference to New Zealand legend Sonny Bill Williams and came after a series of deft, skillful offloads from the Meath lock.

Also a talented Gaelic footballer, Monaghan was a latecomer to rugby and her rise has been simply phenomenal. The Women’s XVs Players’ Player of the Year 2022 has been lighting it up across the water with Gloucester-Hartpury, having joined from rivals Wasps, and is going from strength to strength in Ireland’s second row alongside captain Nichola Fryday.

Expect another big Six Nations campaign from the 29-year-old as she adds to her 10 caps. “I feel like I have a lot more to give,” she warned The42 last summer.

Dannah O’Brien

dannah-obrien Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

McWilliams said Dannah O’Brien had “something very special” ahead of her debut against Japan last August, and the Tullow 19-year-old has shown glimpses of brilliance since.

O’Brien looked right at home at number 10 on the international stage, and a bright future lies ahead. She impressed on the club circuit with Old Belvedere and for Leinster in the interpros thereafter, and prepared for her debut Six Nations campaign in the Celtic Challenge competition. 

O’Brien’s place-kicking is a huge plus, but she’ll have to wait her turn as the in-form and versatile Cronin starts at out-half against Wales. A star in the making, she’ll look to make her impact felt when introduced.

Dorothy Wall

dorothy-wall-arrives Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Dorothy Wall. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Dorothy Wall’s surname is rather apt, the Tipperary star not letting many past her. The 22-year-old has made the number six jersey her own in recent years, her physicality and insane tackling setting her apart. 

Not just that, Wall offers sheer athleticism and skills and is often Ireland’s top ball carrier. It’s clear as day she has the potential to be world-class, and she’ll be hoping to elevate herself with some more dominant displays over the coming weeks.

Like Breen, she played a central role as Blackrock won the AIL title, while she steered Munster to interpro glory and will be buoyed by those successes going forward. She’s joined by Maeve Óg O’Leary and Brittany Hogan in a fresh-looking back row tomorrow.

Neve Jones

neve-jones Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Neve Jones was another standout player for Ireland in last year’s Six Nations. The Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland women’s player of the year has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the green jersey, while she has opted to continue her development at Gloucester alongside Monaghan despite the introduction of contracts here.

The Ballymena hooker relishes physical battle and has mastered the art of scoring tries off the rolling maul. 24-year-old Jones is a diminutive figure but a dynamic workhorse and she encapsulates the fight in this Irish team.

She’s propped by uncapped teenager Sadhbh McGrath and the excellent Linda Djougang on this occasion.


New faces

18-year-old McGrath will make her debut against Wales, with fellow prop Niamh O’Dowd the one uncapped player among the replacements.

sadhbh-mcgrath Tom Maher / INPHO Sadhbh McGrath. Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

Leinster duo Ella Roberts and Molly Boyne and McGrath’s Ulster team-mate Fiona Tuite are included in McWilliams’ wider Six Nations squad alongside Kathryn Buggy (Gloucester-Hartpury), Emma Swords (Harlequins) and Clara Nielson (Exeter Chiefs).

In terms of other relatively new faces, Maebh Deely, Aoife Dalton and Natasja Behan are making their first Six Nations appearances today. Deely starts at full-back; Behan is named on the wing with the more familiar Aoife Doyle on the other flank; Dalton gets her chance in the centre and Molly Scuffil-McCabe is McWilliams’ pick at scrum-half. 

The returning Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird — a versatile player who has had an impressive few months — and experienced Hannah O’Connor are among other options on the bench today, with Christy Haney, Jo Brown, Grace Moore and Vicky Irwin also available.

2023 Women’s Six Nations Round 1 fixtures 

  • Wales v Ireland, 2.15pm, Cardiff Arms Park, RTÉ 2 
  • Italy v France, 3pm, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, RTÉ Player
  • England v Scotland, 4.45pm, Kingston Park, Virgin Media 2.
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