Six Nations: Ireland without Sam Monaghan for England clash at Twickenham

Irish co-captain not named in the matchday 23 as Hannah O’Connor starts at lock with Edel McMahon leading the side

Despite her absence from the match day selection, Ireland women’s defence coach Declan Danaher has praised co-captain Sam Monaghan for the way she has helped her international colleagues to prepare for Saturday’s fourth round Six Nations Championship clash with England at Twickenham Stadium (kick-off 2.15pm).

Because she was still working her way back from a head injury she sustained while on club duty with Gloucester-Hartpury over in England, Monaghan missed out on Ireland’s tournament opener against France in Le Mans on March 23rd. However, the Meath native bounced back to start their subsequent home encounters with Italy and Wales.

She made way for Fiona Tuite in the 48th minute of the latter fixture – a 36-5 victory that took place in Cork’s Virgin Media Park last weekend. Yet even though she trained with the side earlier today (Thursday), it was felt she hadn’t fully recovered from the effort she produced in the Welsh game and it is instead left for Hannah O’Connor to partner Dorothy Wall in the secondrow for their visit to Twickenham.

However, her role as joint-skipper alongside Edel McMahon is more than just an on-field endeavour and Monaghan is playing a significant part behind the scenes as Ireland aim to build on that encouraging display by the Leeside last Saturday.

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“She’s just not fully recovered from the game. She put in a massive effort and she’s not hit her markers to be ready. It gives Hannah an opportunity to step in which is brilliant because it shows the depth of our squad. She’s just taking longer to recover from the effort she put in. It’s risk and reward.

“I’ve seen someone who’s gone out and helped to prepare the team, she’s trained today. She’s taken it in her stride. She’s desperate to play, but she’s prepared the team brilliantly today. It’s brilliant having her on the touchline helping some of the girls that are on the bench and preparing them with things she was seeing. She’s part of a massive effort here to get the girls ready.”

The return of O’Connor to the starting line-up – she also started that aforementioned bout away to France – is one of just two alterations that Ireland head coach Scott Bemand has made to his first 15.

As he looks to leave an impression on the side with whom he served as lead coach from 2015 to 2023, the Hereford native has also elected to bring Aoife Dalton into the team at inside centre.

Although Enya Breen misses out on a start on this occasion, the Cork native is named among the replacements and will provide cover for Dannah O’Brien at outhalf as well as for Dalton and her midfield partner Eve Higgins.

Meabh Deely is also listed among the reserves for the first time since the French game, but there is a familiar look to the Irish team aside from that.

Lauren Delany, Katie Corrigan and Beibhinn Parsons are selected in the back-three for a fourth game in succession and Aoibheann Reilly continues her half-back partnership with O’Brien. Linda Djougang has recovered from a knock she picked up in the Wales game to join Neve Jones and Christy Haney in the front-row, while the in-form Aoife Wafer, solo captain McMahon and Brittany Hogan complete the Irish pack.

Having made a long overdue return to the international test arena last weekend, Cliodhna Moloney is another who will hope to see action off the bench in southwest London.

Given their opponents have won their last 27 Six Nations games on the bounce, there is no underestimating the scale of the challenge that awaits this Irish side in Twickenham.

You have to go back to 2015 for the last competitive win that Ireland enjoyed over their cross-channel rivals, but with the principle focus up to now being on performances, Danaher acknowledged that is what he and his fellow coaches are seeking from their troops on Saturday.

“We’ve been asking for performances and we’ve done that in every game we’ve played. We’re playing England and we know the threats that come with playing against them. When the game is finished, we want to know if we’ve put in another performance that we are proud of,” Danaher added.

IRELAND: L Delany; K Corrigan, E Higgins, A Dalton, B Parsons; D O’Brien, A Reilly; L Djougang, N Jones, C Haney; D Wall, H O’Connor; A Wafer, E McMahon, B Hogan.

Replacements: C Moloney, N O’Dowd, S McGrath, F Tuite, S Ikahihifo, M Scuffil-McCabe, E Breen, M Deely.

Ireland: Lauren Delany; Katie Corrigan, Eve Higgins, Aoife Dalton, Béibhinn Parsons; Dannah O’Brien, Aoibheann Reilly; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Christy Haney; Dorothy Wall, Hannah O’Connor; Aoife Wafer, Edel McMahon (capt), Brittany Hogan.

Replacements: Clíodhna Moloney, Niamh O’Dowd, Sadhbh McGrath, Fiona Tuite, Shannon Ikahihifo, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Enya Breen, Méabh Deely.

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