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O’Leary Ruled Out Of Ireland Squad For Japan Tour

Maeve Óg O'Leary at Ireland training

Maeve Óg O'Leary during a recent Ireland training session at the IRFU High Performance Centre

Head coach Greg McWilliams confirmed yesterday that Ireland star Maeve Óg O’Leary and the uncapped Clara Nielson have been ruled out of the tour to Japan.

O’Leary picked up an injury on Tuesday and Nielson was unable to join the squad due to injury.

Nielson, alongside Jo Brown, was previously capped for England but under new World Rugby guidelines, as both also qualify to play for Ireland, they are allowed to switch to another country if they have not played at international level for three years.

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“Both Clara and Jo are capped by England, multiple caps from England. The last time they were capped was on the England summer tour to the USA in 2019,” said McWilliams.

“The two of them are proven Test internationals with England and now we’ve got the ability to select them for Ireland.

“They’re eligible and they’re very excited to join the group. Clara isn’t travelling because unfortunately she picked up an injury, but we’ve got a good replacement that came in.

“Jo Brown will be joining us in Japan and I’m excited. You are testing your depth, but at the same time we want to win. We’re bringing in people and my staff are bringing in players that we believe have the ability to do great things. They’re great individuals.”

He added: “With Jo and with Clara, we’ve done a huge amount of work talking to people about what they can bring as players. We’ve seen lots of footage, we’ve seen their GPS figures and they fit the model.

“They play the game with a good intensity. They play with good ambition and the most important thing is that they are good people.

“I think we always talk about the person, the player and then the performance strategy. They fit certainly being a good person and a good player.”

McWilliams also confirmed that he has brought in Jess Keating for the tour in place of O’Leary, adding:

Maeve Óg is a really tough one for all of us because if you know Maeve Óg, I mean you know Maeve Óg. She’s the life and soul of our group. There’s a few of them and she’s one of them. She’s a brilliant person, she’s going to be missed.

“Unfortunately she picked up an injury and we’ve got a very good replacement in Jess Keating, a young Irish player who has been on a sports scholarship in the USA, playing for Life University.

“I had seen her play while I was in America and when I was in Japan with the USA team for the World Cup in 2019, I got sent my first video on her.

“Irrelevant of me being back in Ireland, it was to do with a USA side. She was in between. The USA were keen for her to declare for the USA, but we had to make sure she stayed with Ireland.

“We’re going to have a look at her on tour and we’re looking forward to seeing lots of players who are coming on tour, who are great. I truly believe in this squad and I believe in the direction that they’re going in.”