The Irish governing body will also invest an extra €1m a year in the women’s game

IRFU apologises to women’s players

The IRFU has apologised to women’s players and pledged to invest an additional €1m a year into the women’s game in Ireland.

This follows the recommendations of an independent review into Ireland’s failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, which is taking place in New Zealand later this year.

The Irish governing body has been criticised for its lack of support of women’s rugby, particularly at 15s level, which led to a group of past and present players writing to the Irish government calling for “meaningful change”.

In response to that letter last year, the IRFU said it “refutes the overall tenor of the document” as well as being “disappointed” by the timing. The fact that IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts has apologised following this review is a marked change, as highlighted by Scrumqueens editor Ali Donnelly.

“Rugby is a values-based sport and the IRFU is a values-based organisation,” said Potts. “Our vision for Irish Rugby, as set out in our Strategic Plan 2018-2023, is based on ‘Building success together’. We have fallen short of this aspiration in our women’s game.

“However, we are committed to putting this right and we regard the recommendations of this independent review as a solid basis from which to reignite the long-term development of women’s rugby in Ireland.

“I want to apologise to players who have felt let down or not respected. To them I say: we will do better, we will do what is right for women in our game because it is the right thing to do.

“The players asked the IRFU for changes that will have a long-term positive impact on the women’s international teams into the future. I believe what we have announced today provides a strong starting point, underpinned as it is by the IRFU’s commitment to c.€1m in additional resourcing to implement these recommendations.

“Most importantly of all, I want to assure all aspiring women’s players that they have the full support of the IRFU to achieve their ambitions.”

The independent review was conducted by Amanda Bennett, Kevin Bowring and Helen Phillips. While the IRFU has not published the review in full on legal advice that it would breach the confidentiality of those who took part, the governing body has made public all the recommendations.

A lot of these focus on clearer and more transparent policies in terms of selection, standards and priorities, with more collaboration with the players a key theme.

In terms of specific changes the IRFU will make, the additional €1m a year will take the annual budget for the women’s game to €4m. The governing body is looking at appointing more people to full-time roles to support the women’s set-up. This includes a new head of women’s performance and pathways, focusing purely on the women’s game, and the role will be advertised imminently.

That marks a change from the previous role that Anthony Eddy stepped down from yesterday, which encompassed both the men’s and women’s sevens programmes as well as women’s XVs.

Gemma Crowley has also been appointed as Ireland’s new XVs national team programme manager having worked with the women’s team in 2013-14 and been involved with the British & Irish Lions.

You can find all the recommendations of the review on the Irish Rugby website.

The Ireland Women’s Six Nations squad has also been announced as the team prepare for the upcoming championship, which kicks off on Saturday 26 March.

Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.