‘A perfect opportunity’ – McWilliams happy to experiment

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It’s still early days for Greg McWilliams, but whether by circumstance or design, it’s clear his selection policy is open-minded.

Retirements, injuries and the perennial Sevens dilemma saw him bring 10 uncapped players to Japan this summer, having named nine uncapped players to his initial Six Nations squad earlier this year.

And with six of tomorrow’s Round 23 facing Japan on their Test debut, it will mark 13 new caps handed over by the head coach in his first six games in charge.

Ireland’s failure to qualify for the next World Cup has allowed the former United States assistant the luxury – if you can call it that – of experimenting with his side, as they aim to get a head start on the cycle of the next World Cup. FA Cup in 2025.

Dannah O’Brien will be the third player to occupy the 10 shirt this season after Nicole Cronin and Nikki Caughey, while her partnership with Ailsa Hughes will be the fourth different 9-10 combination, a pair Ireland have struggled to nail consistently for several years.

The head coach maintains that the lack of consistency in the selection is not something that worries him too much. On the contrary, he warned us to expect more changes down the line.

Nicole Cronin started four of Ireland’s Six Nations games at half-time

“It’s the perfect opportunity to give people an opportunity. Matches like this happen very rarely, so you have to experiment,” McWilliams said.

“What is our goal? The World Cup has to be a huge goal for us, and yes getting to the WXV has to be a huge goal for us.

“People will be like, ‘Oh, they’re testing another halfback combination. But there will be many. We are in no rush here. This is a great opportunity for us to test players. I’m very comfortable with another wetsuit next week. People work very hard and deserve a chance. We’re leaving and eventually more people have an opportunity, that’s a good thing.”

“The selection depends on the person, the player and the performance strategy. So depending on how the game goes, both nines have strengths.”

McWilliams also stressed the importance of versatility in his squad, with Nicole Cronin – who started four of Ireland’s Six Nations games at half-time – likely to come off the bench at scrum-half tomorrow, while replacement winger Molly Scuffil-McCabe also trained at nine.

“You have to be adaptive. In the women’s game, you have to be able to play in multiple positions. If we do a good job of coaching, the players should be able to trade. It shouldn’t be as rigid as, ‘Oh, they’re trying another nine and ten’,” he added.

“It’s not a bad thing, it’s positive that someone gives them opportunities. Every time I leave this job, I hope people know that I was ready to give people a chance because everyone deserves a chance.

“We have everyone in training covered and their versatility is a strength. Nicole [Cronin] is a baller. I like him at 10 and 9 years old. It depends on how the game goes.

“There is no pressure on Dannah [O’Brien], Nicole can come if need be, but if Dannah is okay, we can have Nicole or Molly come at nine o’clock. They both play slightly different. And again, that’s the performance strategy.

“The selection depends on the person, the player and the performance strategy. So depending on how the game goes, both nines have strengths.”

While the Irish starting lineup has a combined total of just 38 Test caps, McWilliams hopes a more stable pack can provide them with a quality ball.

Seven of the forwards who started Scotland’s last Six Nations encounter retain their places, while the only change sees Katie O’Dwyer and Christy Haney swap shirts at tight headrests.

“You want to make your country proud, make your friends, your family and yourself proud, and there’s no better feeling when you step off the pitch and you’ve done it. And then you’re ready to do it again next week .”


For prostitute Neve Jones, Japan brings back fond memories, having made their first start in last November’s victory against the ‘Sakura Fifteen’, a place she hasn’t given up since.

“I remember the feeling of putting on the number 2 shirt for the first time,” said the 23-year-old.

“You can’t really put into words how it feels to do it and to be able to do it again during the Six Nations… You’re just filled with pride and passion, and you want to put the shirt in a better place every time. I hope I did that and will continue to do that this weekend.

Jones was one of Ireland’s most notable performers in the Six Nations

“As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, I can’t wait to go tear it up on the pitch with the girls.

“When you put on the green shirt, there’s no better feeling. It’s like all the Christmas days you had as a kid. When you step off the pitch, you want to put it back on. [the jersey]and play more rugby, even if you’ve played 80 minutes.

“You want to make your country proud, make your friends, your family and yourself proud, and there’s no better feeling when you step off the pitch and you’ve done it. And then you’re ready to do it again next week .”

And the Gloucester-Hartpury hooker says they want their Far East series to kick off something special.

“It’s a really exciting time, it’s the first time we’ve been on a summer tour together. It’s been great getting together and touring and getting to know each other, and it’s really exciting for everyone. world.

“You can see the pictures we took on our days off, we get along really well… Just being with each other, having the craic and getting to know each other, that kind of thing. It’s really a one exciting times and we can’t wait to play rugby now.”

Follow Japan v Ireland (Saturday, 11am) via our live blog at rte.ie/sport and on the RTÉ News app.

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