Back-to-back matches against the Sakura 15s in August form part of a summer programme for McWilliams’ young side, and the exciting development opportunities ahead are highlighted by the inclusion of eight uncapped players in the touring party for Japan.
Forwards Clara Nielson, Jo Brown and Taryn Schulzter are named in the national squad for the first time having impressed during a series of recent camps at the IRFU High Performance Centre.
Backs Aoife Dalton, Dannah O’Brien, Emma Tilly, Kayla Waldron and Leah Tarpey also receive their first call-ups.
Dalton, O’Brien, Tilly and Tarpey are all part of the IRFU’s Women’s National Talent Squad, which was launched earlier this year.
Ireland will be captained once again by Nichola Fryday, as they open the series against Japan at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi City, Shizuoka on Saturday, August 20, before a second Test against Lesley McKenzie’s team a week later, on Saturday, August 27, at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium in Tokyo.
The two teams most recently faced each other during the 2021 November internationals at the RDS, with Ireland earning a 15-12 win on that occasion.
Japan, currently ranked 12th in the world, are coming off the back of a historic Test victory over Australia and are currently preparing for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in October.
The summer programme will provide McWilliams and his coaching staff with another valuable window to develop squad depth, build cohesion, and expose a number of young players to the international arena, with Japan set to provide a stern test.
McWilliams has included 13 players – including Kate Flannery who starred for Ireland during the recent Under-18 Women’s Six Nations Festival – on the stand-by list for Japan.
Aoife McDermott, Ella Roberts, Hannah Duffy, Jessica Keating, Jorja Battishill, Flannery, Leah Lyons, Meabh Deely, Muirne Wall, Shannon Touhey and Vicky Irwin have all been part of the national team summer programme and remain available for selection.
Unfortunately eight players – Alice O’Dowd, Aoibheann Reilly, Aoife Wafer, Eimear Considine, Ellen Murphy, Kathryn Dane, Nikki Caughey and Niamh Byrne – were unavailable for selection.
Commenting on the squad, McWilliams said: “We’re excited to finalise the touring squad for Japan having trained together as an extended group of 50 players since May.
“There is a strong mix of youth and experience in the panel and this is a great opportunity for the uncapped and young players, some of whom have come up through the pathway and the National Talent Squad programme.
“That in itself is really positive to see these players develop through the system and now get their opportunity in the senior team as we build ahead of next season.
This summer programme was designed to expose us to new environments and challenges and it has been brilliant to work with the group for an extended period leading up to our departure for Japan.
“We look forward to two tough Test matches and the positive experience touring will bring for the players and staff.”
In addition, former Fiji Men’s head coach John McKee has been added to the Ireland coaching team for the summer programme and will travel to Japan.
Kick-off times and broadcast details for the two Tests against Japan will be confirmed in due course.
Ireland Women’s Squad, Japan Tour:
Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemians RFC/Munster)
Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)
Clara Nielson* (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby)
Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster)
Edel McMahon (Wasps/IQ Rugby)
Emma Hooban (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)
Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby)
Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)
Jo Brown* (Worcester/IQ Rugby)
Katie O’Dwyer (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)
Laura Feely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht)
Linda Djougang (ASM Romagnat Rugby/Leinster)
Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College RFC/Munster)
Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster)
Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht)(Captain)
Sam Monaghan (TBC)
Taryn Schulzter* (Saracens/Ulster)
Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)
Aoife Dalton* (Tullamore/Leinster)
Dannah O’Brien* (Tullow RFC/Leinster)
Emma Tilly* (MU Barnhall RFC/Leinster)
Enya Breen (TBC/Munster)
Kayla Waldron* (Hamilton Hawks/IQ Rugby)
Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks RFC/IQ Rugby)
Leah Tarpey* (Tullamore RFC/Leinster)
Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)
Natasja Behan (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)
Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians RFC/Munster).
Ireland Women’s Japan Tour Fixtures:
- Japan v Ireland, Saturday, August 20, Ecopa Stadium
- Japan v Ireland, Saturday, August 27, Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium