Teenage Ulster prop Sadhbh McGrath to make Ireland debut in Wales opener

Greg McWilliams names his side for opening Six Nations encounter in Cardiff

Women’s Six Nations: Wales v Ireland, Cardiff Arms Park, Saturday, 2.15pm – live on RTÉ 2

Ireland are hoping to improve on last year’s fourth place in the 2023 Six Nations Championship, which kicks off on Saturday in Cardiff Arms Park.

While England remain at a level above the other home nations, winning their fourth successive championship last year and a Grand Slam, Ireland will be seeking to overturn the 27-19 defeat Wales inflicted at the RDS last year.

Coach Greg McWilliams has brought two uncapped players into the matchday 23. Ulster 18-year-old Sadhbh McGrath has been selected in the frontrow having impressed during the recent Celtic Challenge competition, with Leinster’s Niamh O’Dowd also in line for her debut cap off the bench.

Several others including Méabh Deely, Aoife Dalton and Natasja Behan, who gained their first Irish caps during last summer’s Tour of Japan, are set to make their first Six Nations appearances.


England take on Scotland in Newcastle’s Kingston Park in the opening weekend game with Italy facing France in Parma.

Tighthead prop Linda Djougang is the only one of the three try scorers against Wales last year in the Irish squad, which is a blend of experienced players and those still on a learning curve.

Fifteen of the Irish 23 have 10 caps or less suggesting a tough start to the competition. Ireland are ranked eight in the world, one above ninth-placed Wales, who now have 25 full-time professional players.

WALES: Courtney Keight; Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones (capt), Kerin Lake, Carys Williams-Morris; Elinor Snowsill, Keira Bevan; Gwenllian Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Sisilia Tuipulotu; Abbie Fleming, Gwen Crabb; Georgia Evans, Alex Callender, Bethan Lewis.

Replacements: Katherine Evans, Caryl Thomas, Cerys Hale, Kate Williams, Sioned Harries, Ffion Lewis, Lleucu George, Hannah Bluck.

IRELAND: Méabh Deely (Blackrock College/Connacht, 2 caps); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union/Munster, 12), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere/Leinster, 2), Enya Breen (Blackrock College/Munster, 16), Natasja Behan (Blackrock College/Leinster, 2); Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian/Munster, 21), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union/Leinster, 4); Sadhbh McGrath (City of Derry/Cooke/Ulster, uncapped), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster, 13), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster, 24); Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht, 29 (capt), Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby, 10); Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster, 16), Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College/Munster, 3), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere/Ulster, 10).

Replacements: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere/Munster, 4), Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere/Leinster, uncapped), Christy Haney (Blackrock College/Leinster, 5), Jo Brown (Worcester Warriors/IQ Rugby, 1), Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby, 5), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster, 14), Dannah O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster, 2), Vicky Irwin (Sale Sharks/Ulster, 1).

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times