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Women's squad asks representative body to assist in dispute with IRFU

Rugby Players Ireland has raised the issue with the governing body as the ‘#legacy?’ campaign gathers pace.

THE IRELAND WOMEN’S national team has enlisted the help of Rugby Players Ireland, the representative body for Ireland’s professional rugby players, in their ongoing dispute with the IRFU.

Ireland stand for the anthems The Ireland squad sent a letter to Rugby Players Ireland over the weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A letter signed by members of the squad, which expressed concerns over the IRFU’s vision for the game, was presented to Rugby Players Ireland chief executive Simon Keogh and requested that the players’ union act on their behalf.

This action follows the launch of the ‘#legacy?’ campaign which gathered pace over the weekend and saw players, in both Ireland and England, wear wristbands during domestic fixtures in protest of the IRFU’s lack of respect towards the women’s game.

In a ‘routine’ meeting with IRFU chief executive Philip Browne today, Keogh — the former Leinster and Harlequins winger — raised the issue and Rugby Players Ireland are now awaiting a response from the governing body.

As it stands, they are not yet mandated to enter talks on behalf of the players.

“We have been approached by the players who had come to us as a collective,” a Rugby Players Ireland spokesperson told The42. “We have raised this with the IRFU.”

In a stance similar to the one taken by the women’s national football team against the FAI earlier this year, the players have taken this step after their previous bids to find a resolution with the governing body have failed.

A long-standing issue, it seems, is the lack of communication between the IRFU and the players, with several members of the squad venting their frustration and disgust on social media last week.

screenshot.1508788671.55998 Players wore '#legacy?' wristbands during Sunday's AIL games. Source: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey of The Irish Times says the only communication to the squad from the IRFU after the World Cup has been an email asking who was retiring.

The IRFU last week denied it had downgraded the women’s head coach role despite advertising the vacant position on a part-time and six-month basis following the departure of Tom Tierney.

Tierney resigned from the job in the aftermath of Ireland’s disastrous home World Cup back in August, with the IRFU’s decision to advertise a part-time vacancy — seven weeks later — causing widespread anger and condemnation.

Claire Molloy, the Ireland captain, said the IRFU’s move to seek a part-time coach ‘is such a disappointment’ and added they will be ‘left behind’ as many of their rivals move forward with full-time coaches.

The IRFU is currently conducting its review of the World Cup before putting together a long-term strategy for the women’s programme, and said it will appoint a full-time coach ‘if necessary’ once the process is completed.

Ireland open their 2018 Six Nations campaign against France on 3 February.

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Ryan Bailey

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