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Laois player in line for appearance as Ireland team named ahead of Women’s Six Nations opener

Emma Hooban Ireland Rugby

A Laois rugby player is in line to receive her ninth international cap as the Women’s Six Nations gets underway this weekend.

Ireland begin at home to Wales on Saturday at 4.45pm in Energia Park and Emma Hooban has been named on the bench.

The Portlaoise native, who plays for Blackrock College RFC/Leinster, could enter the fray in the position of hooker.

Nichola Fryday will captain Ireland for the first round clash in Dublin, with three uncapped players included in the match day 23.

Aoibheann Reilly starts at scrum half having impressed for Blackrock College during the Energia All-Ireland League season, while forwards Christy Haney and Anna McGann are set for their first Test caps off the bench.

In his first game in charge, McWilliams has opted for an exciting blend of youth and experience in his side having worked closely with the extended squad during a series of preparatory camps at the IRFU High Performance Centre.

Linda Djougang, Neve Jones and Katie O’Dwyer combine in the front row, with Sam Monaghan joining newly-appointed captain Fryday in the engine room.

Dorothy Wall has returned from injury having missed the two November Tests to start at blindside flanker, with Edel McMahon selected at openside and Brittany Hogan at number 8.

Reilly, who has featured on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for Ireland, partners Nicole Cronin in the half-backs, with the Limerick native returning to the green jersey to win her 17th Test cap.

There is a new-look centre partnership with Stacey Flood linking up with Eve Higgins in midfield, while Lucy Mulhall, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Eimear Considine form an exciting back-three.

Haney, the Leinster captain this season, and McGann are among the replacements tasked with making a big impact. Emma Hooban, Chloe Pearse and Hannah O’Connor provide the other reinforcements for McWilliams up front.

Kathryn Dane, Enya Breen and Beibhinn Parsons, who has returned from a recent injury, complete the selected Ireland squad.

Commenting on his selection, McWilliams said: “This is a great start for us as a group, we’re really excited about the youth and experience in the team.

“We’ll learn a lot from this game, but for these players to go out and represent Ireland at the RDS is going to be special.

“It’ll be a great occasion and I’m excited to see how they perform, because we’ve got through a lot of work over the last couple of weeks.”

Saturday’s round 1 encounter is live on Virgin Media One and BBC Two Northern Ireland.

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.