The IRFU is to invest €1m extra in Irish women’s rugby a year as part of a package of announcements made today.
Some 30 recommendations have been published following an independent review which was looking at the national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup and the IRFU says they will accept all of them.
Alongside this, the CEO Kevin Potts has also issued a formal apology to the players having heard from them directly during discussions in recent months, in stark contrast to how the IRFU initially responded to the letter the players published last year laying out their lack of faith in those running the game.
The IRFU has decided to only publish the recommendations of the review despite a commitment for much fuller transparency, citing legal issues around breach of confidentiality.
While the players representatives’ statement does not reference this decision, the IRFU say the group of four women who have spearheaded talks understood the issue and were satisfied that the recommendations did accurately reflect the issues that had been raised.
Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Cliodhna Moloney, Lindsay Peat have led discussions with the IRFU, Sport Ireland and Ministers in recent months, taking time to lay out the challenges and discuss solutions, giving considerable time and energy to ensuring that the review can make a turning point for the game.
The recommendations highlight that considerable systems and processes had either been absent within the national 15s programme or not robust enough.
They include simple suggestions like creating a selection policy alongside the players and staff and ensuring a consistent to data on opposition, while there are also a number of other significant proposals including the consideration of introducing hybrid contracts.
New jobs will be also be created including a Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways and a Women’s XVs National Team Programme Manager.
Potts conceded that the IRFU had fallen short of their aspirations in the women’s game but that it is committed to putting it right.
“For me, this was, first and foremost, about listening to the player group and understanding their concerns, he said.
"It was also important to ensure that the players had faith in the process and in our desire to work collaboratively. I have already had several meetings with representatives of the player group and have formally apologised to them on behalf of the IRFU.
“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 €1milion 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."
Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Cliodhna Moloney, Lindsay Peat also issued a joint statement saying the recommendations.
"While they clearly highlight the many challenges surrounding the national 15s programme in Ireland, we believe that these recommendations and their implementation have the potential to make a significant and positive difference for women’s rugby in Ireland.
"As a group, we have been meeting regularly in recent months with the IRFU and Sport Ireland.
"Kevin Potts, Chief Executive of the IRFU, has taken a proactive and inclusive approach to these discussions and has taken considerable time to understand the issues and demonstrate his commitment to resolving them. This has been extremely welcome, and we want to thank him for his leadership.
"Today's announcement by the IRFU is a welcome first step on a journey towards a new era for Irish women's rugby, but it is a vitally important one.
"We are committed to further collaboration including ahead of the publication of another crucial review later this year which is looking at the overall game across the country.
"Together, the changes that emerge as a result of all of this work, alongside renewed commitment in women’s rugby right from the top of the IRFU, means we can look to the future with greater confidence than ever before.”