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O’Brien on the rise for Irish rugby

O’Brien on the rise for Irish rugby

Teenager Dannah O’Brien has been tipped for a big future after impressing for Ireland in the No.10 jersey on their historic tour of Japan.

O’Brien was one of nine players who made their debut in the first Test in Japan as she joins an ever-growing audition list for the Ireland fly-half spot.

And her performance did not go unnoticed, with former Ireland centre Grace Davitt, who played for Ireland back in the 2013 Championship, impressed by what she saw from the youngster.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sportsound Extra time, Davitt said: “Her game management and kicking game were both really good.

“Stacey Flood stepped into that position during the Six Nations but had to go with the sevens squad who are preparing for the World Cup in South Africa in 10 days’ time.

“Dannah has an unbelievable left boot and produced some amazing kicks into touch which gave Ireland a really good platform. She’s a really good distributor as well.”

A set fly-half has been an issue of Irish rugby for the past few years as multiple contenders have been tried but O’Brien has stepped up and made her mark early.

The 18-year-old kicked 12 points in Ireland’s 57-22 first Test victory but was part of a side that struggled to back that up in the second Test, as Japan bounced back to earn a 29-10 victory.

Head coach Greg McWilliams expressed his disappointment at the second Test result in Japan but noted that his team must be patient as they look to rebuild.

He said: “[The tour] has been massive and the support from home has been great. We did our best, it wasn’t good enough but we’ve got a group of people who understand that we want to be better and we’ve just got to hope for a bit of patience.

“Japan were phenomenal and everything clicked for them. I though their pace of play was excellent.

“It was a tiring week for us, we struggled after putting everything into that first test to rebuild.

“And the more we can train with these players, the professionalisms going to help and our players will be able to go that second week.”

In the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations, Ireland came away fourth as Enya Breen’s last-minute try against Scotland brought celebration to their campaign finish.

And Davitt believes that the recent summer Test series has already shown signs of a newly fresh and determined side emerging.

She added: “The pack were the old heads, but in that backline bar [scrum-half] Ailsa Hughes and Enya Breen at centre, the rest were new caps and that’s big.

“The likes of Aoife Dalton slotting into 13, a really hard position to play and to defend in – and scoring tries.

“That’s what was so amazing was for all of them to stand up and back themselves and you can see what Greg McWilliams and Niamh Briggs and the whole management team are building within the squad.”