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Eddy 'surprised' IRFU's decision to turn down Australia tour invite 'became an issue'

The IRFU’s strategic review on the women’s game is still in progress, but is due to be completed before the end of the summer.

THE IRFU’S DIRECTOR of women’s and sevens rugby, Anthony Eddy, says he was ‘surprised’ by the way the union’s decision to turn down an invite from Rugby Australia for a women’s three-Test series ‘became an issue for some people.’

Anthony Eddy Anthony Eddy. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

It was revealed last month that the IRFU declined an invitation to send the national women’s team Down Under for a series against the Wallaroos, which would have made up double-headers with the men’s games in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

The decision caused consternation across the board, with many past and current players not shy in publicly voicing their disappointment in what was the latest episode during a difficult year for the women’s game in Ireland.

“It didn’t suit us at the time, it wasn’t short notice, it didn’t fit with our programme,” Eddy said, further emphasising the comments David Nucifora made over the issue last month.

“It was offered in December, if I remember correctly, and turned down in January, if I remember correctly. I was surprised it became an issue for some people.”

Speaking at the announcement of Ireland’s squads for next week’s Sevens World Cup, Eddy insisted that the IRFU is fully focused on developing both the 15s and sevens codes, with the long-awaited strategic review into the women’s game expected to be completed in the next month or two.

“The review is still a work in progress,” he continued.

“We’re continuing to look at the best way to develop the [women's] game and develop the playing base. We need a critical player base to compete on the world stage on a consistent basis. We’re hoping for something [to be published] over the next month, or two months.

“We’re not like most countries, we don’t have a huge playing pool.

“We’re still looking to develop the numbers. Sevens is a great introduction to the game, but we’ll always have players playing 15s and sevens. We’re not focused on one or the other, we’re focused on women’s rugby and trying to develop the numbers so we can compete.”

Ashleigh Baxter, Hugo Keenan, Billy Dardis and Lucy Mulhall The Ireland squads were announced on Monday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Both Ireland men and women will be in action at the Sevens World Cup in San Fransisco next week, with the cut-throat nature of the tournament meaning there is little margin for error if either side want to progress.

The men’s team open their campaign against Chile at the AT&T Stadium on Friday 20 July, with the winners progressing to face South Africa in the second round, while the women’s team go head-to-head with England in their opening fixture.

Despite a hugely progressive season which saw the men finish third on their World Series debut, Eddy is realistic about Ireland’s chances on the big stage: “It’s a challenging tournament because of the format of the tournament, it’s cut-throat you have to go and win every game if you want to win the World Cup.

“Both teams will go there with the aspirations and the ambitions to be extremely successful, but sometimes sevens can be a really cruel game as well, so we’re realistic about our chances.”

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Ryan Bailey

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