Source: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Greg McWilliams announces his 2023 6 Nations Ireland squad

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Here are the 32 names:

Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere/Leinster)*, Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke/Ulster)*, Kathryn Buggy (Gloucester-Hartbury/IQ Rugby)*, Christy Haney (Blackrock College/Leinster), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartbury/Ulster), Clara Nielson (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby)*, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere/Munster), Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/ Connacht), captain), Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartbury/IQ Rugby), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere/ Ulster)*, Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/ Munster), Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby), Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College/Munster), Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere/Ulster), Molly Boyne (Railway Union/Leinster)*

Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union/Leinster), Emma Swords (Harlequins/IQ Rugby)*, Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster), Dannah O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Enya Breen (Blackrock College/Munster), Aoife Wafer (Blackrock College/ Leinster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Vicky Irwin (Sale Sharks/Ulster), Méabh Deely (Blackrock College/Connacht), Aoife Doyle (Railway Union/Munster), Natasja Behan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Ella Roberts (Wicklow/Leinster)*, Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby)

Key: IQ = Irish Qualified. This group includes mainly, but not exclusively, players based in England. The current seven all play for Allianz Premier 15s clubs.

*There are no fewer than eight new names here, indicated with an asterisk. Above all, they indicate the success of the Celtic Challenge in providing the selectors with a wider span of choice. The Irish did themselves proud by winning all their matches.

They include four forwards who made their mark in the CC, Niamh O’Dowd, Sadhbh McGrath, Fiona Tuite and Molly Boyne.

That leaves one back who shone while helping Ireland to their unbeaten run in the CC, Ella Roberts.

The other source of material is the relaxed qualification regulations. They allow Kathryn Buggy (Gloucester-Hartpury), Clara Nielson (Exeter) and Emma Swords (Harlequins) to come within reach of an international cap. Good luck to them. Nielson missed out on an Irish tour to Japan through injury, so for her it’s better luck this time.

When we analyse the clubs represented here, we can see the importance of all the IRFU’s initiatives to spread the game wider. Of the 32 players eight come from Blackrock, four from Railway Union and seven from Old Belvedere. That’s 19 from just three clubs.

Key players such as Beibhinn Parsons, Eve Higgins and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe are excluded from the list till their Sevens commitments are completed. Twas ever thus.

Ireland can enjoy the rare advantage of having a woman among the coaching staff, Niamh Briggs, who is in charge of the backs. We have to cross fingers as we await similar news from other nations.

This is very much a 6N squad, but McWilliams has added a further twelve names of players who will join a 2-day course at the High-Level Development Centre in Dublin. They are: 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 become the second of the Six Nations to announce their line-up. France did so on 8 February.

Just three-and-a-half weeks to go!